Youth Talent Show Celebrates Exceptional Artistry to Benefit Special Needs Children 

By Eric Luo

Special needs children and other talented youth showcased their skills in dance, voice, instruments and martial arts on August 17 in Pleasanton.

The talent show was hosted by the Tri-Valley nonprofit student organization Global Leadership Initiatives For Youth (GLIFY). A celebration of talent, hard work and courage, the GLIFY talent show was both entertaining and uplifting. More than 200 people attended the show, which raised more than $2000. Thanks go out to the audience members and donors, as well as the GLIFY members — high school and middle school students who tirelessly volunteered to put on the show.

Now in its 7th year, GLIFY’s talent show fundraiser benefits children's causes, including Friends of Children with Special Needs (FCSN), a Bay Area nonprofit that helps children with special needs discover their hidden talents and abilities.

“Events like this help children with special needs to interact with the community and find their self-worth,” said FCSN Founder Anna Wang, who thanked GLIFY for providing special needs children with a stage to showcase their artistic talents and abilities.

The night started off with emcees Justin Wang, Daphne Yan, Kevin Li, and Rena Gong performing a skit that highlighted activities that GLIFY members participate in, such as volunteering for the Alameda County Fair and Living Arroyos.

Co-Presidents and high school seniors Roy Lin and Eric Luo briefly introduced the club and its officers, followed by Vivian Hir’s slideshow presentation showcasing GLIFY’s achievements over the past year.

The show’s opening act was FCSN’s Music Camp Band, composed of Alice Jen, Lawrence Wang, Tony Nakamoto, Gregory Hebert and Frank Prenot, who played five different instruments. They rendered a dynamic performance of “Twist and Shout” and “Ghostbusters.” Their passion and energy brought the audience to its feet.

FCSN’s acapella group, Resonance, is made up of Lawrence Wang, Frank Prenot, Tony Nakamoto and Gregory Hebert. They sang “In the Still of the Night.” Solo dancer Karina Bengco, who was born with Down syndrome and low muscle tone, danced to the song “Circle of Life” from the Lion King.

“When we see FCSN’s talented performers, we are overwhelmed by their abilities beyond their disabilities,” said Lin. “These performances inspire all of us to look obstacles straight in the eye, and tackle them with courage.”

Additionally, the talent show featured award-winning musicians. Justin Wang showcased his artistry on the piano with one of Chopin’s virtuoso etudes Op. 25 No. 11, commonly known as “Winter Wind.”

Sisters Alicia Zhang (piano) and Jing Zhang (violin) performed “Tango Tzigane.” Dougherty Valley High School students Brianna Zhang, Carina Liu, Grace Zhao, Jennifer Sheng, and Olivia Phongsa formed a string quintet and played the waltz, “Merry Go Round of Life.” Sophie’s Vocal Academy’s East Bay Teens Ensemble, made up of classical vocalists Angelina Cheng and Joanna Chu, and pianist Justin Wang, performed the opera piece, “Che Soave Zeffiretto,” along with the American folk song “Shenandoah.” They won first place at both the Northern California and the State VOCE competitions this year. Also from Sophie’s Vocal Academy, musical theater students Joanna Chu, Emily Shi, Miranda Lee, Kevin Phongsa, Olivia Phongsa and Cecilia Guo danced and sang “Luck Be a Lady.”

To celebrate the diverse culture in the Tri-Valley, the talent show featured a variety of dances and martial art performances. Representing Sun Flower Academy Kungfu School, Ryan Xu, Jaden Agin, Toby Zhang, Annie Chu and Ai Deng wowed the audience with their flying kicks and acrobatic stunts. National winner Jodie Cai from the Yao Na Dance Studio performed a modern dance to Demi Lovato’s “Stone Cold.” Beverly Chen, Anna Jiang and Nicole Ma performed a Chinese dance, “Jasmine Blooming.” Fiona Xie and Flora Xie performed “Shepherd Sisters,” a Mongolian dance.

The show ended on a strong note with “The Hans,” an ethnic Chinese dance in the Han Dynasty dance style from 2000 years ago. The dancers were Kacie Hu, Katherine Yeh, Siyu Chen, Elizabeth Xiong, Flora Xie, Fiona Xie and Yvonne Liao.

This article was first published on The Independent on Aug. 29, 2019.