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Opportunity knocks for area musicians



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January 30, 2008
Some musicians with local ties will headline an upcoming show at one of the Detroit area's premiere rock 'n roll concert venues.

On Wed., Feb. 6, Imlay City singer-songwriter Tifani VanDenBerg will be joined by Jak Stout, a Lapeer-based band, and two other local acts for a 7 p.m. concert at the Royal Oak Music theatre.

The show is part of Royal Oak Music Theatre's "Wednesday Night Live" local artist series, a showcase for up-and-coming bands and musicians from the Detroit area.

VanDenBerg, 21, a 2004 graduate of Imlay City High School, describes the concert as a "great opportunity," and one she intends to make the most of. She's even helped promote the event, garnering support and assistance from Jak Stout and the other acts on the bill, including singer-songwriter Jenny Cummings and The Honest Life.

"It's been a lot of work, but it's worth it," she says. "The Royal Oak (Music Theatre) is looking for local musicians to open up for the more established and national acts that appear there. We're hoping to get a lot of people there."

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Tifani VanDenBerg, Jak Stout to take Royal Oak Music theater stage.

VanDenBerg has been composing and performing her own music for several years. She started out writing Christian-based songs in high school, which led to performances at local venues and the release of her first CD, "Glow," in the spring of 2004.

While a student at Rochester Col- lege, VanDenBerg began to write songs beyond the parameters of her Christian experience.

"My music is still positive," she says, "but my view of the world has changed and my original songs reflect those changes. Now I write more songs about personal experience."

After spending the past year testing out the musical waters in Seattle and its environs, VanDenBerg recently returned home to see family and friends. She was also hoping to find a job and save a little money to proceed with the production of a new CD. Thus far, the grass has not been greener.

"The economy was awesome out there, but it's terrible here," she says. "It's been a culture shock coming from Seattle where there were help wanted signs everywhere.

"My plans are to get a degree in criminal justice," she says. "I've applied to attend classes at Mott College, and eventually I'd like to go back out to Seattle or Portland and go to the police academy."

Those plans are temporarily on hold while she prepares for the Royal Oak show.

While she typically performs as a soloist, VanDenBerg will team up with two other local musicians, Cecilia Sharpe and Andrew Stout, for the Feb. 6 concert.

"I wanted to have a band with me for the Royal Oak show—to make a stronger impression," she says. "I put an ad on Craig's List (on the Internet). They both responded and they stood out from the others who contacted me."

Sharpe, a cellist with a music education degree from Wayne State University, conducts Urban Strings, a youth orchestra in Detroit; while Stout (no relation to Jak Stout) is a Clawson-based drummer who performs with three other Detroit-area bands.

"They're both outstanding musicians," VanDenBerg said. "The only problem is they both work and have other things going, so it's been hard to get everyone together for rehearsals."

VanDenBerg says the group will perform original songs from her yet-to-be released CD, which is being recorded at a friend's studio in Royal Oak.

"Audiences have been responding to a couple of the songs, "You" and "The Day Has Come," she says. "I can tell which songs are getting the most play on my Myspace site. The Web site has been a great way to get my music heard and as a resource for meeting other musicians."

VanDenBerg hopes the Royal Oak Music Theatre appearance will expand her audience.

"The main thing for me is that I would like people to hear my music," says VanDenBerg. "If something was to happen, that would be awesome. I try to be realistic about things."

Jak Stout was formed in 2003 by original members Jared Gregory (vocals-percussion), Kyle Canjar (guitar), and Sean Cline (drums), all of whom attended music classes at Mott College.

They've since added keyboardist Nic Buzinski and bass player Danny Velic, both of Rochester.

Drawing from the combined influences of Bob Marley, Paul Simon, Grateful Dead, Peter Gabriel, Bela Fleck and Dave Matthews, the group released "Jak Stout," a five-song, self-titled EP in 2007.

With a unique sound that blends reggae, jazz, Latin and world music, the band continues to perform at local venues, including the White Crow Music Conservatory in Saginaw last Friday, and the Coffee Tree in Lapeer on Saturday.

Band spokesperson Jared Gregory said the group is anxiously awaiting the chance to play at the popular Royal Oak venue.

"We are so excited about this," says Gregory. "This is big for us to play on the same stage as some of our musical heroes. We're really looking forward to it."

With a diverse repertoire that defies labeling, Gregory hopes the Royal Oak MusicTheatre audience will appreciate the band's musical sincerity.

"When we're on stage, we just try to be ourselves," he says. "We love to play music and we enjoy ourselves. Hopefully the crowd can feel that."

Also a graduate of Imlay City High School, Gregory credits VanDenBerg with having coordinated the concert.

"Tifani is the person who contacted us and she's put this whole thing together," he says. "We're grateful to her for all she has done for us."

The Royal Oak Music Theatre is located at 318 W. Fourth St. in downtown Royal Oak. Tickets for the Feb. 6 show are $7 in advance or $10 at the door. For advance tickets, contact VanDenBerg at 206-766-0916.

For more information, go to: www.myspace.com/tifanivandenberg or www.myspace.com/jakstout.

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