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Middle schoolers take to the stage for fundraising event to benefit music program

PMG PHOTO: CLAIRE GREEN - Eighth grader Sophia Burden sings Never be enough from the film The Greatest Showman Nov. 16 at the dress rehearsal for Athey Idol.Students gathered bright and early Nov. 16 at Athey Creek Middle School for the first dress rehearsal for the 16th annual Athey Idol fundraiser, held Dec. 13.

Modeled after the televised singing competition American Idol, the winner will be chosen by audience votes, going for $1 per vote. Students — as individual or group acts — get two-and-a-half minutes to wow the audience and earn votes during the competition. In addition to the overall, audience-chosen winner, students are also able to get recognition by winning the "Judge's Choice" and "Director's Choice" awards.

"The money that we raise at Athey Idol goes to the choir and drama programs here at Athey Creek," parent and volunteer Laura Greyerbeihl said.

Funds raised last year were used for a variety of things, including buying a new piano and helping to pay for singing competitions like regionals.

"It's expensive to do those things, so it's wonderful that they have events like Athey Idol to help pay for it," Greyerbeihl said "And it's fun for the kids and audience as well."

At the helm of the production, Athey's music and theater director Allison Lee was sure to emphasize that beating each other was not the goal.

"We're here to support each other and have fun!" Lee told students during warm-ups.

"Miss Lee is wonderful," Greyerbeihl said. "It's amazing that she puts in all this time after school and on her weekends to work with the kids. She's incredible."

Although the show is designed as a fundraiser, Greyerbeihl said that the show does a lot more for the students than just pay for programs and trips.

"There have been kids who have come out of their shells because they've been so encouraged," Greyerbeihl said. "It's great because the kids who participate in this program are super encouraging." Eighth grader Sophia Burden, back for her third year of the competition, said that she gained confidence through participating.

"I always loved performing — singing, acting, dancing — and the arts, so my first year I did a duo act with my friend because I was too nervous to do it on my own."

Now as an Athey Idol veteran, Burden's song "Never be enough" from the film "The Greatest Showman" was a bold choice, designed to showcase her range and power.

"I like a challenge, but this song also spoke to me," Burden said, adding that she encourages other students to participate in the future. "It really helps with your stage presence and performance skills."

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