Performance nights aim to create awareness of teen talent

Michon d’Artell explains the significance of the logo designed for the Final Friday events. The ‘V’ for Vashon is a nest from which stars come “rocketing out,” he said. - Amelia Heagerty/staff photo
Michon d’Artell explains the significance of the logo designed for the Final Friday events. The ‘V’ for Vashon is a nest from which stars come “rocketing out,” he said.
— image credit: Amelia Heagerty/staff photo

First Fridays on Vashon may have met their match. Beginning next week, the final Friday of each month will host a dynamic event of its own — a teen performance night.

For six months, Island teens will have a chance to share their skills, and the best performer, chosen by his or her peers, will receive a hefty prize: a promotion deal that could cast a spotlight on the winner locally and electronically.

Michon d’Artell, an Islander who’s worked as a youth director and a music producer, hopes to launch one Vashon teen into cyberspace by creating a Web site and video and promoting a live performance to share the teen’s talent — be it music, poetry, acting or something more esoteric — with the world.

“Because of the Internet, the name of the game is changing, especially with music,” d’Artell said. “If you are capable and you have a talent, then you can promote yourself on the Internet and create awareness through MySpace, Facebook, YouTube.”

He said he was struck, upon moving to the Island three years ago, by the amount of youth ability that goes unnoticed.

“I noticed there’s this talent on the Island, but it’s not utilized and valued,” he said. “My one hope for the teenagers and the Vashon talent nights — for the teenagers to experience that being creative is worthwhile, and it has value not only on the Island but beyond.”

Together with Books by the Way owner Jenni Wilke and her husband Dave, who works for the Vashon Island School District, d’Artell came up with a way to harness and reward the energy he saw in Island youth. The Final Friday events, he said, will be laid-back and inclusive.

The events will take place at Books by the Way, where audience members will judge performers on their preparedness, delivery and “feel,” or how moved they were by the piece. The first performance night is Jan. 30.

“It’s very important for me to mention that this is so not ‘American Idol,’” he said. “When it comes to creative expression, whether it’s singing or dancing or acting out, you actually can’t judge it in that way. There’s nothing right or wrong with the artistic expression.”

D’Artell, 49, said he hopes teens will be able to relate to him, because he, too, considers himself a creative person. Born in Denmark, he began as a performer at the age of 22, when he was a street musician playing guitar in Denmark.

“I hope I can show them that it’s OK to be vulnerable, to be yourself, and stand up in front of other people,” he said. “It’s courageous to stand up in front of others, especially if you stand up in front of your friends.”

D’Artell plans to continue Final Friday events for years to come, as long as there is interest, he said.

His motivation to put on these events, he said, is to encourage Island teens to strive toward a goal and not give up.

“If I have any personal agenda, it’s that I want to communicate to them that a big gun is just a little gun that keeps on firing,” d’Artell said. “In the long run, we’d like to empower teenagers with the tools to be able to profit from their talents.”

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