Diana and Joe Arlt started the monthly Showcase of Talent to expose local talent and contribute to scholarships for deserving young performers.
Both goals were met Friday night at the La Hacienda Recreation Center. A diverse blend of Villages’ singers performed country songs. More importantly, the Arlts donated $1,800 to the Opera Club of The Villages.
A similar donation was made to The Villages Jazz Club. Since the start of the Showcase of Talent nearly nine years ago, the Arlts have raised nearly $100,000 for local music scholarships.
“We’ll do whatever we can to help young people in music,” Diana Arlt said.
“This means a lot to us,” said Pearl Kosa, co-chair of the scholarship committee for the Opera Club. “We’re helping young people follow their dreams.”
The showcase, however, is not just for young talent. Villagers in music have found a major performing resource doing the showcases.
“We want to keep live music alive in The Villages,” she said. “When I started out here 19 years ago, it was hard to have a chance to sing in front of a crowd. We want to give our local talent a chance to show what they can do. And it’s been a great opportunity for them.”
Georgianne Hill took advantage of her opportunity singing a Barbara Mandrell number, “Years.” Hill brought emotional power to the song. The same could be said for Lea Howard’s “Two Sparrows in a Hurricane,” originally done by Tanya Tucker.
Joe Di Leo revved up the crowd with a deep and spicy take on Josh Turner’s “Your Man.” Frank Marchitelli made like Merle Haggard on “Ramblin Fever.”
BJ Odendahl kicked some life into Patsy Cline’s “Back In Baby’s Arms” while Dee Hart followed that with “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue.”
The Talent Showcase is more than songs. A couple of dance troupes kicked up their country heels. The Off Broadway Players wore blue and white outfits dancing to “Country Girl,” while the Classy Dazzlers sparkled on “Cowboy Casanova.”
Michael and Rena Bonczek — known as Sizzle — had some fun while dancing and singing “He Drinks Tequila.” Speaking of drinking, Oscar Lovering was toting a beer can during his number, “Pretty Good At Drinking Beer.”
Tony Violanti covers arts and music for Villages-News.com. He was inducted into the Buffalo NY Music Hall of Fame as a music journalist.