You have to hand it to Pittsburghers. While most of the city was celebrating the 20 year drought of baseball success being banished by the large rubber duck in the river congruence, there was a faction of well minded people just across the parking lot from PNC Park in the wonderful Stage AE at the best Pittsburgh charity event of the year for a music lover: The Voices Carry Event to benefit Auberle. First off, deep appreciation and admiration for all those who came to the 9th annual event, the organizers, sponsors, and musicians, and those who supported the charity as well as forsake watching the historic Pirates vs. Reds game. But maybe, just maybe those baseball fans missed out on something really special…
The evening was hosted by none other than WDVE morning show host Randy Baumann. Randy is not only an extremely entertaining dude on the radio, he is a huge music fan, massive supporter of the arts and charities, and an all around stand up guy. He certainly was the host with most as he intro’d each act and kept us all up on the Bucco game. You won’t find a better representative of what Pittsburgh is all about than Randy.
Our other “hosts” for the evening, so to speak, were Rick Witkowski and The Pittsburgh All Star band. Rick is always lending his guitar and musical chops wherever the help is needed and is a staple at the Voices Carry event just like Randy. These guys are so amazing and tight it is sick…a finer backing band would be hard to find even on late night television.
What Voices Carry does is bring together an amazing amalgam of Pittsburgh talent to sing/play while Rick and company back them up by executing the instrumentation of well known tunes or well known songs by the Pittsburgh artist. All of the proceeds go to Auberle which is an organization that help support at-risk children and vulnerable families (See more here). Along with donations, tickets, raffles, etc. Voices Carry raised over $92 K dollars at last years event. It is amazing what generosity Pittsburgh people put together and this is just a wonderful example of a great happening that exemplifies that spirit of giving.
The night started off with fifteen year old sensation Madi Lapre who gave all who were lucky enough to witness her sound check absolute chills. This is a young woman who is certainly headed for big things and belted out some big tunes from those pipes of hers. As a first time performer at Voices Carry, it will be a welcome site to see her again.
Next up was Sandy Dowe, an unbelievable Pittsburgh jazz performer. Sandy can belt out some serious stuff and putt the crowd in the mood for a great time. Sandra Dowe performs at Pittsburgh festivals, jazz clubs and social events, Sandra also enjoys teaching vocal music, dance and acting to youth K-8th in several Pittsburgh schools. She is a member of Covenant Church of Pittsburgh and has been a part of the choir and worship team with whom she traveled to Boston, Atlanta, Korea, S. Africa and Zimbabwe. Her special love is singing contemporary Christian music as well as Jazz. Dowe expresses that although singing with local groups and big bands is her first love, Ms. Dowe has also enjoyed featured roles in such theater productions as Ain’t Misbehavin’, One Mo’ Time, Blues in the Night, Beehive and The Crawford Grill Presents Billie Holiday.
Changing things up a bit was the vocalist from country act The Stickers, Joe Wodarek. Joe sang a very personal song with lyrics that for him were personal to experiencing the death of his father and it certainly was heartfelt as it was dedicated to all who have felt loss. Joe has a very powerful and soulful voice for a country musician and The Stickers are definitely one of the absolute best of the best of the genre in the tri-state area.
Pittsburgh legend, Bill Deasy, took the stage next to perform George Harrison’s “Here Comes the Sun” and a tune from his Gathering Field days with the help of Maddi Georgi. The audience was brought right back to their heyday when Bill was playing the bars in the Southside and rocking all of us out at Nicks Fat City. It was truly glorious and Bill’s voice should be bronzed and kept in the Warhol.
Josh Verbanets from The Josh and Gab show was up next. Josh goes around schools with his partner Gab and sings songs regarding the subject of bullying to school kids to get the conversation started. Together, they have developed a unique and unforgettable live anti-bullying musical comedy program for students of all ages. Josh and Gab’s performances utilize humor, original songs, interactive exercises, and energetic storytelling in a fun and heartfelt educational program. Josh sang a song about having to confront a bully at Kennywood that was so catchy, fun, and so uniquely Pittsburgh it was pure brilliance…(at nine o’clock, at nine o’clock).
Returning to the stage was Maddie Georgi who was named by Pittsburgh Post Gazette a “Young Pittsburgher To Watch”. Maddie’s smile and talent just exudes on stage and everyone is immediately drawn in. She most certainly is a young talent who is making her mark on the city and beyond.
Following Maddie was the bluesy voice of Melinda Colaizzi who pulled off a rendition of “Me and Bobbie McGee” that would make both Janis and Kris proud. Her voice will floor you and just has to be heard and seen to be believed. She sums it up best herself: “I view singing not as hitting all the right notes but as hitting the audience’s heart with honesty and passion that comes straight from the soul.”
To close out the first act, symphony sensation Vanessa Campagna who has shared the stage with some of the greatest artists in the music industry such as Reba, Sugarland, Trace Adkins, Blake Shelton, Alan Jackson, Brooks & Dunn, Loretta Lynn, Keith Urban and more. Vanessa broke out of “her comfort zone” and performed “It’s a Man’s Man’s World” from James Brown. Maybe it’s not the proper wording when speaking of this type of genre, but it was sick. Just truly pure and beautiful and heartfelt. Can’t stop singing that song since.
Part of the entertainment pre-show and between the first and second act was one of the busiest magicians in the business, let alone Pittsburgh, Lee Terbosic. Lee is always the most enigmatic guy in the room and will blow your mind with what he can do leaving everyone asking, “how does he do that?”. Take whatever cheesy idea you have about magicians and throw it out the window, because Lee Terbosic has seamlessly developed something that will change everything you’ve ever thought about magic.
The second act really began with a bang when Tony Janflone Jr. was joined by Sputzy and Shari Richards. These guys will knock your socks off everytime and last night was no exception. Tony and Sputzy were giving a guitar clinic while Shari was showing us all how to get down with our bad selves and ‘soul search’. It was mind blowing and so much fun to see the musicians having an absolute blast doing what they do and love best.
The next two acts were a couple stalwarts of Pittsburgh, Zig Daniels from The Delaneys and Chris Higbee. Zig took us back to some eighties new wave, hitting some impossible notes, while Chris jammed some Charlie Daniels Band “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” and stole all the ladies hearts.
Kelsey Friday was next to pick up the action and brought great attitude and spunk to the stage fitting in great with Rick and the band…
Then the dynamic duo from No Bad Juju, Matt and Sabrina Matteo took on some Beyonce and brought the house on their feet for some dancing…
Coming back to front and center was Jeff Jimerson who began the ceremonies with his infamous rendition of The Star Spangled Banner and showed us what he can do with those golden vocal chords outside of the Consol Energy Center…
The night would not be complete of course without The Boss’ very best bud from The ‘Burg Joe Grushecky who banged out a super cool rendition of “Chain of Fools” and some of his own material playing with his son and many of the other performers backing him up.
The Clarks and Scott Blasey have been a Pittsburgh staple for nearly thirty years and show no signs of slowing down. We love them like we love our football, beer, and pierogies. Scott was so on point and it was great to hear him slip in the cover of “What a Wonderful World” in the very Joey Ramone style he always does.
Then the penultimate Pittsburgh moment was upon the crowd. Donnie Iris. The man, the myth, the legend. Our very own Jagger from The Jaggerz. “Love is Like a Rock” and Ah! Leah!” are practically the Pittsburgh theme songs and Donnie sang them with such emotion and the voice of a an angel. This guy can hit notes that will pop your ears. He still has it and he always will. Check out the video of him performing “Brown Sugar” below.
The whole event was an absolute success and it could not have been accomplished without all the volunteers, the staff of Stage AE, the people at Auberle, and everyone who supported. I highly suggest you be there next year- Pirate playoffs or not. Pittsburgh proud people. Pittsburgh proud.