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West Linn High School's Karaoke Fridays prove to be big hit, massive draw for students and teachers

TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Rory Bialostosky slows down the tempo with 'Hey Soul Sister' by Train.Suited up and in fedoras, social studies teacher Todd Jones and drama teacher Steven Beckingham took the audience at West Linn High School back to another time with the hit duet by Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr., "Me and My Shadow." And they did it with two microphones and a screen generating YouTube lyrics.

"I just really like Todd Jones. He's a really great person and teacher (and) I feel lucky to have done something like that with him," said Beckingham, who performed a Britney Spears song last year. "We rehearsed this together a few times. ...We just felt it, you know."

TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE  - Math teacher Sean Shevlin brings in laughs and excitement as he busts out his moves to 'Ice Ice Baby.' Performances like this — including math teachers rapping, students belting their hearts out, or the student resource officer going solo — are fairly normal every first Friday of the month for WLHS's popular lunchtime activity: Karaoke Friday.

"It's a nice community moment and the kids here, they all sing along. It's super friendly," said teacher-librarian Stacey Erickson, who originally spearheaded the lively lunch activity last year. "We've had kids up there that have struggled and everybody just kicks in."

The high school library was designed with an open concept in mind, and anyone who's seen the building would recognize that people working in the library can see people walking the halls above them. This allows students to watch from above and down below, which is great when crowds of 200-300 students and staff flock together to hear the brave karaoke performers.

A few months ago, Jeff Halverson, the school's resource officer, sang "Sweet Caroline" by Neil Diamond, and the video of his performance was eventually picked up by other news organizations.

TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE  - Emmett Black engages the audience with 'I'll be there for you.'"I just showed that video of Officer Halverson to the architect group from BRIC and they loved it because here 16 years later, here's an innovative way to use this space," said Erickson, adding that the sound in the library allows it to be a great gathering place.

This popular song choice was also the first song that was chosen for Karaoke Fridays.

"The first time originally was because we were sending our baseball team to state so we sang 'Sweet Caroline' and the whole baseball team, they thought they were singing it, and they got nervous and then I'm like, 'Don't worry everyone will sing it,' and everyone did," Erickson said. "You could sing that song every time and it would be fine."

And this activity quickly became something students looked forward to.

TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE  - Brice Brown, left, dances and sings with his friend, Ian Underwood during Karaokee Friday.Senior Brice Brown would consider himself a regular.

"I do this all the time, in fact. I think Erickson told me that I probably should not do it so much since there's a lot of other people who want to be there too," Brown said.

But this time around in January, he got up there with his friend, senior Ian Underwood, and they danced and sang to "We Are Number One" by Lazy Town.

"We wanted to do this for a while with four people since there's four people in the song but then we compromised to three people but then that third person left so it (was) just the two of us," Brown said, adding that they rehearsed the song so they could perform it by heart. "You get the cold hands ... but once you get into the song you just sort of let that happen. I got very exhausted during that song so I was trying to keep breathing; trying to make sure I don't weeze; trying to just sing the song out."

Brown wasn't the only returner. Junior Haider Alzubaidi hit the center stage for his second time around.

TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE  - Haider Alzubaidi starts off the karaoke event with 'Careless Whisper.'"I love doing karaoke. It's a lot of fun," said Alzubaidi, who sang "Careless Whisper" by George Michael. "Something about being in front of a crowd, I think I just find it really exciting. It's something different to be in front of a lot of people; just a blood rush — getting high on life."

After all the students performed, Jones said that he sees the karaoke activity as a good event for students and staff because it "builds spirit, camaraderie, helps people establish relationships and see each other in a different light," he said.

Building community is what Erickson likes most about the activity as well.

"I really like the community piece. I really like that they support each other," said Erickson, adding that she is saving her performance for February. "A bunch of senior girls and I, we might do — because it's Valentines month — '(No) Scrubs.'"

TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE  - Social studies teacher Todd Jones, left, and drama teacher Steven Beckingham, draw a large crowd with the duet 'Me and My Shadow.'
But Erickson's ultimate idea is to expand the lunchtime activity so that an activity would take place every Friday.

"My idea is in the big picture have something like Fun Fridays," Erickson said. "Every Friday (we) have something different, like maybe it's open mic Friday where people say poetry or tell jokes or whatever. ... We have the ability to expand."TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE  - Braeden Snapp gets down to 'Magic' by B.o.B.

West Linn Tidings reporter Clara Howell can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 503-636-1281 ext: 112.

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