BOSS Dance Company hosts Spring Showcase

The BOSS Dance Company was “en pointe” this weekend during its seventh annual Spring Showcase presented by the University of Tennessee Dance Society in Clarence Brown Theater.

BOSS, a student-run company, formed in 2010 as the main company of the UT Dance Society. The Dance Society formed in 2008 following the elimination of dance pedagogy and performance minors at UT. BOSS auditions students who participate in technique classes and performances outside of their college schedules and curricula.

Over 70 dancers brought art to life through choreography by a team of 10 professional and nine student choreographers.

“It has been such an amazing feeling to see our showcase come together because we have put a lot of hard work and dedication into making it the best that it can be,” dancer Madison Tomasek said. “We’re so lucky to have the chance to showcase our talents in front of an audience.”

The Friday night show started nearly 30 minutes after the advertised time to allow a large line of student, family and community supporters to find seats. Audience members cheered for their favorite dancers, waved posters and brought flowers to celebrate the company’s work.

Maigread Lennon, a UT student, arrived an hour early to purchase a ticket and find a seat.

“I wanted to come tonight because I know how hard my roommate has worked, and I wanted to support her,” Lennon said.

The company let loose in light numbers like the swing and hip-hop fusion “Night on Lennox.” But BOSS also used its talent as a platform to address social issues. The choreography of “Us Versus Us” drew attention to hate caused by social media.

“Being a part of BOSS has given me the opportunity to become more involved on campus and allowed me to find my place here at UT,” Tomasek said. “There is so much talent in this company, from the choreographers to the dancers, that makes this company what it is.”

Parents of BOSS members sold merchandise like crop tops and sweatshirts featuring the respective Dance Society and BOSS Dance Company logos. Branding brings increasing attention to the company; the Dance Society hopes the spirit of dance will continue at UT.

Auditions for BOSS are held in early fall each academic year. The group rehearses once a week, but additional rehearsals may be added as needed. Anyone interested in auditioning for BOSS may send inquiries to for more information.

Follow the University of Tennessee Dance Society @DanceSocietyUTK or like them on Facebook here: Dance Society

Featured Image by Lexie Little

Edited by Katy Hill

Pentatonix’s Avi Kaplan hosts UT a cappella workshop

Students from around the region got the chance to work with a  Grammy-winning artist on Saturday, Jan. 28 in Cox Auditorium on the University of Tennessee campus.

Avi Kaplan, vocal bass for a cappella group Pentatonix, headlined the second annual Contemporary A Cappella Workshop hosted by the UT School of Music.

Work began Friday with rehearsals for UT’s three a cappella ensembles: VOLume, UT Singers and ReVOLution. Kaplan listened to and critiqued their sets. He also chose one song to perform with each group on Saturday.

VOLume performs featuring soloist Dalton Mitchell.
VOLume performs featuring soloist Dalton Mitchell.

“He speaks great knowledge and advice,” VOLume tenor Dalton Mitchell said. “It’s great for us to soak that in. He’s just so down to earth.”

Registration began just before 9 a.m. Saturday. High school students filed in and warmed up with a few UT Singers and Interim Associate Director of Choral Activities Jaclyn Johnson.

Dr. Jaclyn Johnson and Avi Kaplan
Dr. Jaclyn Johnson and Avi Kaplan

Johnson coordinated Kaplan’s visit. The two are friends and alumni of Mt. San Antonio College in California.

All female group ReVOLution performed first with Kaplan joining them for “Cheap Thrills.” Kaplan subsequently lent his talents to VOLume and UT Singers. Between performances, Kaplan held question and answer sessions.

Some students did not know what to expect but were excited to work with a prolific member of the music community.

“I’ve never been to anything like this,” high schooler Raven Woods said.

Her friend Sinceer Truss added she looked forward to “tips on what to do better and the experience.”

This clinic marks only the second for Kaplan.

Kaplan demonstrates transitions within a cappella arrangements.
Kaplan demonstrates transitions within a cappella arrangements.

“I just want to make sure I’m doing everything possible to help [music] grow and flourish. I love to see them excited,” Kaplan said. “I just would hope that they are inspired and that they believe in themselves.”

Some students, including UT Singer Nicole Doyal, will not soon forget his advice.

Featured soloist Nicole Doyal performs with UT Singers
Featured soloist Nicole Doyal performs with UT Singers.

“Halfway through the rehearsal I forgot that he was a famous guy because he was just so talented and knowledgeable and was helping us with our craft,” Doyal said.

But the collegiate singers were not the only performers to closely work with Kaplan. An ensemble from Seymour High School and another from Bearden High School received selections to perform onstage. Kaplan chose each school from YouTube submissions.

“It’s a huge opportunity for them,” Andrea Markowitz, a UT alumna and music director for Seymour High School A Cappella said. “For them to get to do it and only be between 15 and 18-years-old is huge. And it’s with someone who is passionate about the same thing as them.”

Seymour High students work with Kaplan following their performance.

Seymour High performed a Michael Jackson medley. Kaplan then joined them onstage for advice and demonstration.

Choral Director at Seymour High Jean Burkhart hopes students will become interested in all genres of music from all periods by way of a cappella.

“I love the fact that [Kaplan] has a classical vocal background and to see how good vocal technique translates to any genre,” Burkhart said.

Kaplan grew up in choir beginning in middle school. He later majored in opera in college before getting the call to join Pentatonix. The call came just prior to the group’s appearance on NBC’s “The Sing-Off.”

Since then, Pentatonix won multiple Grammy awards and gained international attention with chart-topping tracks and albums on both iTunes and Billboard. Their most recent Grammy nomination comes for “Jolene,” a collaboration with East Tennessee’s own Dolly Parton.

Kaplan works with students from Bearden High School
Kaplan works with students from Bearden High School.

“When you think about a legend, you have a lot of ideas about what you would want them to be. She embodies everything you would want her to,” Kaplan said. “To be able to keep that humble heart is something that speaks volumes and can really set an example for the world.”

Tune in to the 59th Annual Grammy Awards Feb. 12 at 8 p.m. on CBS to see if Kaplan and Pentatonix will take home another award.


Images/Audio by Lexie Little

Edited by Taylor Owens


UT Singers performs annual homecoming concert

Last week marked the 100th Homecoming for the University of Tennessee, and while some watched “the stately walls rise glorious to the sight,” others filled the Sandra G. Powell Recital Hall in the Natalie L. Haslam Music Center to hear the UT Singers annual homecoming concert Friday night.

The UT Singers, premier a cappella ensemble and Tennessee’s musical ambassadors, took the stage under the direction of Interim Associate Director of Choral Activities, Dr. Jaclyn Johnson, before a nearly full recital hall. Johnson encouraged the audience to clap, cheer, video, livestream and “woohoo” during the performance.

“Blending is everything, especially with each person on a microphone. Every tiny flaw is amplified, and because the group is only 14 members, there is absolutely nowhere to hide,” Johnson said commenting on the group’s performance and efforts. “We spend a great deal of time devoted to blend and balance.”

The recital hall resonated with balanced sound as the 14 singers performed 14 songs including modern pop hits, classic R&B and of course, “Rocky Top.” Lights were orchestrated to fit each song and were brightly displayed on the stage in hues of pink, purple, blue and orange, creating an enjoyable ambiance for all in attendance.

The singers opened with a mash up of Imagine Dragon’s “Radioactive” and Fall Out Boy’s hit “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark” featuring soloist, Megan Murray.

Murray, a first year UT Singer and junior from Kingsport, loves the opportunity to sing in such an ensemble. She said, “UT Singers has made me love UT more and more every week. It has allowed me to pursue my Public Relations major while still having an amazing outlet to pursue my passion for music alongside others who share that same passion.”

Murray and the other members broke into smaller ensembles for several songs. They branched beyond a cappella by incorporating guitar and piano. Hayley McGinnis belted Tori Kelley’s “Hollow” with an acoustic twist accompanied on guitar by Cory Sauer. Paul Davis III also accompanied Nicole Doyal on piano for Adele’s “All I Ask.”

Their time and efforts reached a pinnacle as they invited UT Singers alumni to sing the Alma Mater as well as “Rocky Top” arranged by recent UT Singer alumnus, Seth O’Kegley. Many alumni ranging from the graduating class of 1959 to the most recent class of 2016 joined them on stage donning their orange and white. Other alumni like HGTV design celebrity, Josh Johnson, watched livestream on Facebook.

The generational group sang in a style unfamiliar to some of the former singers because the group was formerly geared toward show choir.

“As a UT Singer, I’d have been intimidated by the complex a cappella harmonies that make groups like Pentatonix so incredible, but it sure would’ve been fun to learn!  They have paved the way to an entirely new take on the oldest form of singing, and I think it’s awesome that UTS is taking on the challenge,” UT Singers alumna, Liz Mabie, said.

The UT Singers enjoy opportunities to perform for alumni, public and private events. Dr. Johnson and the UT Singers take pride in their service as they “have the honor of singing for multimillion dollar donor and alumni events.”

Their family-like bond and support system enables them to shine individually as they move to the music they make and connect with the audience. Audience members like Ellen Sudarshan enjoyed both the music and their stage presence.

“Their arrangements were really dissonant and resolved really well. I think they all had a great, unique personality onstage, and they were really fun to watch,” Sudarshan said.

The UT Singers join with the rest of their a cappella family, ReVOLution and VOLume, for the Winter Choral Concert on Tuesday, Nov. 29 at 8 p.m. in Cox Auditorium. The University of Tennessee Chamber Singers, Concert Choir, Men’s Chorale and Women’s Chorale will also perform. Admission is free.

Featured photo by Lexie Little

Edited by Katy Hill



SGA brings Mental Health Awareness to UTK

Mental health issues prevail in American society. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 43.8 million adults encounter mental illness each year. Nearly 60 percent of all adults affected by mental illness do not receive services or support. This week, UTK Student Government Association and Student Counseling Center aim to change these statistics and help all Volunteers know “you’re not the only one” by promoting Mental Health Awareness Week.

SGA set up tents on Pedestrian Walkway, the New Student Union Lawn, Presidential Court and in the Hodges Library Atrium to promote the event. Tables feature free snacks, SGA buttons and stickers, water bottles, stress balls and most notably, free bracelets.

Each bracelet color corresponds to one of six differing areas of mental health: mental health itself, trauma, depression, eating disorders, anxiety and suicide. Each bracelet features the event theme slogan, “You’re not the only one.” The bracelets also have the number 974-HELP listed where students may call for support.

According to the Center for Health Education and Wellness at UTK, “The goal of 974-HELP is to provide help and support to all students, enabling them to succeed and thrive while at the University of Tennessee.” Students are strongly encouraged to use the resources available to them if they or another student need assistance.

sga-mental-health2Dr. Alicia Brown of the Student Counseling Center and Student Government Senators Bev Banks and Thomas Cortez tabled outside the Student Union Wednesday afternoon talking to students about available assistance and promoting mental health awareness.

“People have been really receptive,” Banks said. Cortez agreed and said, “People have been very grateful. It’s not something people really talk about.”

Both agreed the week-long event was an important topic worthy of discussion and support. Senator Kalina Blazanovic believes the event will become an annual staple to discuss mental health and support fellow Volunteers. Continuation of the promotion will depend on the next executive branch of SGA, but with such warm reception, none would be surprised to see these tables back next fall.

SGA released a video on social media Sunday featuring students willing to voice their experiences and encourage support for those struggling in similar situations.

SGA President Carson Hollingsworth said, “We want all the members of our campus community to know that they are valued, they matter and they are not alone when it comes to mental health. We are so thankful to partner with the Counseling Center, the Center for Health Education and Wellness and the Dean of Students office to advocate for mental health awareness this week.”

Mental Health Awareness Week comes in conjunction with National Substance Abuse Prevention Month. A Recovery Fair with free food and local resources was held on Ped Walkway Tuesday afternoon.

SGA will finish out the week with tables on Ped Walkway from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday and Friday.

Featured image by Lexie Little

Edited by Kaitlin Flippo

5 movies to watch before Halloween

With Halloween approaching, many people are heading out to haunted houses, corn mazes and spooky events of all kinds. However, many will be turning on the television for frightful films. The 18th annual 13 Nights of Halloween returns to Freeform (formerly ABC Family) beginning at 5:30 p.m. this Wednesday, Oct. 19. Here are five monstrous movies not to miss:

1. “Hocus Pocus”

First released: 1993

“Come little children, I’ll take thee away,” into the land of the Sanderson sisters, a coven of witches who haunt Salem, Massachusetts. Starring music icon Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy in the lead roles, the cult classic follows the sisters as they torment the town in a quest to be immortal after a young man and his sister summon them back from the dead. Though the film only earned 30 percent ratings from Rotten Tomatoes, the zany film has become a household favorite after years of play during the 13 Nights of Halloween. The first airing this year will be 9 p.m. on Oct. 19.

2. “Halloweentown”

First released: 1998

Witch, Aggie Cromwell, welcomes audiences to her home, Halloweentown, where witches, warlocks and monsters of all shapes and sizes can live in peace. When her granddaughter, Marnie, learns she can train to be a witch, she follows Aggie from the mortal world to the land of the supernatural. Little does Marnie know she will be using her powers to defeat evil forces in the once peaceful community. This movie made famous by Disney Channel stars a budding Kimberly J. Brown and famed actress Debbie Reynolds. It would later be made a franchise with three sequels. UTK Campus Events Board will be playing the film at Vol Night Long beginning at 9 p.m. this Friday. The movie will air on Freeform at midnight Oct. 26.

3. “Addams Family Values”

First released: 1993

In many cases, sequels do not quite match the caliber of the original. However, “Addams Family Values” will not disappoint. Gomez Addams and his wife, Morticia, are thrilled with the arrival of their new son; but, children Pugsley and Wednesday abhor the new infant. To stop the children from harming their new brother, the Addams bring in the new nanny, Debbie, played by the ever hilarious Joan Cusack. But when Debbie sets her sights on marrying Uncle Fester, things go haywire for this eccentric clan. Keeping true to the original television series, the film is both mysterious and spooky with plenty of humor. The film will air Oct. 20 at 8:50 p.m.

4. “Dark Shadows”

First released: 2012

The king of creepy Johnny Depp brings Barnabas Collins to life in this film based off the soap opera of the same name. Barnabas, a vampire, returns to the world after two centuries buried alive. He must explore his town, Collinsport, in the modern era with his family and their strange friends; all must come together to defeat his ex-lover and witch, Angelique, who plans to ruin Collinsport and his name for good. Also starring Michelle Pfeiffer and Helena Bonham Carter, this film directed by Tim Burton takes us to the campy 1970s with a mix of humor and horror. “Dark Shadows” begins at 5:40 p.m. on Oct. 26.

5. “The Nightmare Before Christmas”

First released: 1993

Also from Tim Burton, this animated classic is a multi-season movie following Pumpkin King Jack Skellington who is bored with his life. He finds himself enchanted with Christmas after stumbling into Christmastown, and he plans to take the place of Santa Claus for a change of pace. But not everything is holly jolly when the king of Halloween tries to “make Christmas.” Filled with catchy music from Danny Elfman, audiences will be singing ghostly songs well into the Christmas season. The movie kicks off the 13 Nights of Halloween at 5:30 p.m. this Wednesday.

Featured image by Emily Rogers/FreeForm News

Edited by Kaitlin Flippo