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Teens sing old show tunes to turn frowns upside down

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When Jaymie Cowen began feeling down about the pandemic, she didn’t let it get the best of her.

Instead, the 16-year-old Grade 11 student, decided to do something about the friends and regular activities she was missing.

She rallied a few of her pals who also like theatre and music at St. Patrick’s High School and formed a band they call Stage 6ix.

Their plan was to perform downtown when Christina Street was converted to a pedestrian mall this summer and put out a tip hat, with money collected going to the Imperial Theatre. But before the first performance, the owners of The Blue Line Pub & Lounge asked them to play at their outdoor patio.

“It meant we could use their sound system,” Jaymie said. “We never expected that.”

It was windy and rainy and Stage 6ix had to respect pandemic restrictions by performing behind a Plexiglas screen — held by two moms so it didn’t blow away.

“But people came, and it ended well,” said Jaymie.  And $130 was raised for the Imperial Theatre.

Other band members include Dana Parco, Karissa Kern, Madeline Aitken, Michael Decarolis and Noah Leonard.

Invitations followed, and Stage 6ix played numerous times at Blue Line, then down the street at Bad Dog and Wild Wing. Their earnings were donated to different causes, including Krista Clark, a Sarnia mom with terminal cancer.

The band mostly played three sets of lounge standards, like Sweet Caroline. “That is the crowd favourite and we do other oldies like Ring of Fire and Don’t Go Breaking My Heart,” said Jaymie.

Stage 6ix drew a good audience, and was invited by the local Alzheimer’s Society to perform at its four Christmas parties.

Once the good weather ended and outdoor band performances became more of a challenge, Jaymie began working on another project that had percolated for some time.

“I’ve always made a lot of videos,” she explained. “And I thought that with COVID it would be amazing to make one with the song from (the musical) Annie, “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile.””

The pandemic has taken a toll on everyone’s spirits, and she wanted to find a way to cheer up herself and others, she said.

“It’s been very, very hard, I can’t deny it. I’m usually in one play or another almost all the time. I miss it so much.”

Stage 6ix created a video in which they sang, danced and handed out “smile cookies” to police officers, firefighters and strangers. Jaymie edited and posted the video on YouTube, Instagram and Facebook and was surprised when it received thousands of views.

“People loved it,” she said. They said it was so needed. It makes me feel really good to hear that because some teens are making the wrong choices. But I feel we’re doing the right things, and it’s nice that people are noticing.”

A second video is in the works and will be released before Christmas.

Jaymie’s mom, Sheri Mcknight Cowen, is recording the singers at the Celebration of Lights in Centennial Park and other city venues. Jaymie expects to post “Christmas Smile Video 2020” on YouTube this week.

“I love making people happy,” she said. “It makes me happy and it’s helping all of us get through this.”

The Arts Journal reflects all things entertaining and cultural in our community.  Send your ideas to [email protected]

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