Performer and event coordinator Gabby Jackson, a Saddleback acting major (center), poses with fellow “Historic Harlem” performers Justin Hershie (far left), Tyler Carmode (left), Julian Strauss (right), and Drew Block (far right), all of whom are music majors.
Saddleback College students and faculty, in unison with the Angels for the Arts foundation, celebrated “A Night in Historic Harlem” Friday, Feb. 27 with a fundraiser for the college’s fine art students.
The event, purposefully held in Black History Month, was meant to shine a spotlight on an almost forgotten era through dancing, singing and jazz from perhaps the greatest cultural naissances in American history, said 19-year-old Gabby Jackson, one of the showcasing performers.
“The Harlem Renaissance is so important to everything that we do as a community and as a nation,” Jackson said. “Everything that we have artistically pretty much came from here: jazz music, jazz musicians. This rebirth of culture is what really brought us to the place we are now artistically.”
Jackson, who was one of the headlining performers at the fundraiser, was also responsible for organizing the event. As the student representative of the Angel’s for the Arts organization, Jackson picked the theme, selected other performers, and helped advertise the event.
“This is my brain child but there were a lot of people involved in helping me,” Jackson said.
The talent for the night was chosen from within the Saddleback community. Megan Riopelle, Henry G. Sanders, and Tony Award nominee Jonelle Allen, a faculty member of Saddleback, were among the Harlem entertainers.
“A lot of the [performers] were good friends, members of the music department here at Saddleback,” Jackson said. “They’re people I’ve worked with before, or that I got recommendations for, so it was really just a selection from people we were confident in.”
Attendees of “A Night in Historic Harlem” were encouraged to enjoy the live music and entertainment, and even participate in the dancing themselves.
“I saw an elderly couple dancing with huge grins and you could tell the music meant a lot to them,” said 19-year-old Saddleback student Axl Dominguez. “I was really impressed with the level of professionalism, and people really seemed to enjoy themselves.”
In addition to being celebration of art forms produced during the Harlem Renaissance, the event served as a means to raise money for scholarships.
“The Angels for Arts are a community of adults and volunteers raising awareness and funds for student artists at Saddleback,” Jackson said of her event-organizing partners. “We put on events like this, or comedy and magic shows, but we also give away scholarships. Last year we gave away $25,000 of scholarships to students of the fine arts program. This year we’re hoping to do the same or exceed that.”
The event, which sold far more tickets than anticipated, was indeed successful in raising funds.
“We oversold by a great deal,” Jackson said. “We were capping it off at 200 tickets and I think we sold 244, but the estimation was only 150, so we’re way over where we thought. I think this is something that could have amazing benefits for years to come.”