“Girls Have Talent,” an eclectic showcase of young female musicians from Redmond, will be the attraction at the free Arts in the Parks Teen Night at 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 20 outside Redmond City Hall, 15670 NE 85th St.
“We are working on a girls’ empowerment conference for September and we will launch the ‘save the date’ at this event,” explained Ken Wong, director of teen programs for City of Redmond. “We created this girls only show to give young women an opportunity to show off their talents and not have to be better than the boys, even though many times they are better. We also feel that young women in Redmond need a space to celebrate … and that is how Girls Have Talent was created. We’ve had, the past few years, a teen night at Arts in the Parks and this is our highlight of female talent.”
The concert will include some familiar performers from Redmond’s Old Fire House Teen Center, such as Whitney Ballen.
Newer faces will include three Redmond High School (RHS) juniors who formed the band Kokoro o Kashite Kudasai for their school’s annual “International Fair.” That’s an event where world language students share what they’ve learned about the culture of the countries they are studying and/or their countries of origin.
Kokoro o Kashite Kudasai members Jennifer Schumaker (guitar), Laura Svancarek (bass) and Kristen Higashi (drums) are all in Dennis Hesselgrave’s Japanese class at RHS. They also studied with Hesselgrave in junior high and became aficianados of what they call “J-pop” or Japanese pop music.
“Our songs are inspired by chapters in our textbook,” said Schumaker. “The first song we wrote was ‘Introduce Yourself,’ using words in that chapter. It’s a cute love song with lyrics, sung in Japanese, like, ‘We met at the park, we worked together at the sushi shop, then you went away and I’m sad,” she explained, giggling.
Another of their J-pop songs uses words from a textbook chapter about a visit to a restaurant.
“This guy tells a girl he’ll treat her to dinner … but then he forgot his wallet and she has to pay,” said Higashi.
Audience members at the Girls Have Talent show can expect to hear Kokoro o Kashite Kudasai songs such as “Unten” (about driving), “Gakkou No Kisoku” (about school rules and being rebellious) and “Kanzen Muketsu No Rokkun Roora,” which Schumaker described as “the world’s greatest rock n’ roller cover song from ’70s Japan, by an artist named Arajin, like our top inspiration.”
A friend named Tiffany Kwakwa will also come up to dance and sing back-up vocals at Friday’s show, the girls said.
They further remarked that their humorous hobby of writing pop songs in Japanese has paid off in better grades, too.
“It really helps us to study the vocabulary and grammar,” said Svancarek. “Our teacher adores our band. He’s really excited, really supportive, our biggest fan,” she added.
Also scheduled for the Girls Have Talent show is keyboard player Joanna French, who graduated from RHS in June and will now be a freshman at University of Washington.
Among her influences, French said, “I really like Coldplay, they have really cool piano parts. Even though they’re mainstream and popular, their music is a bit different. I also really like Jack Johnson — his music is very fun, summery.”
French also enjoys music from Disney movies and Broadway plays.
“They’re fun to sing along with,” she noted. “In the past, I’ve put medleys of pop songs together. For Arts in the Park, I’ll try to do something familiar to all ages. Last year, I did ‘Hey Jude’ by the Beatles. I’ll do a classic that everyone knows.”
French added, “I like participating in community events and this will be my last hurrah before college.”
And the Girls Have Talent concept appealed to her because there aren’t as many opportunities for women as men in the music industry.
“You have Beyonce or Christina Aguilera, the powerful soloists. Then you have the boy bands. If girls aren’t super-talented, like Christina Aguilera, they are in the background. … Lots of girls know how to play piano and it’s awesome, but at the end of the day, the lead is often a guy playing guitar. It’s subconsciously ingrained in society.”