Desiring the Arts

Talent competition returns to annual festival

Talent from all over the country, from professionals to students will be featured in a festival of music, visual arts and performance at the fourth annual Desiring The Arts this week.

The show begins Thursday with a Night of Gershwin and American Standards, and continues through Sunday at McSweeny’s School of the Performing Arts, 1633 N. 29th St., featuring a talent show with local performers.

The talent competition was added to the festival last year and was a positive development, said DTA co-founder Sean Buhr.

“It was fun to see a lot of new young people,” Buhr said. “It’s another way of getting involved more with today’s youth. Giving another opportunity for people to get out there and put their performing, their music, their art in public in front of people — kind of take some risks.”

It’s not too late to sign up, Buhr said. Wednesday will be the cutoff for anyone interested. Last year’s entries were mostly singing, dancing and instrumental, but it’s also open to visual art and design.

“I think that is a great way for people to meet other artists in the area, and other singers and dancers and musicians, and see what other people do,” Buhr said. “I think it’s a good learning experience. I know I participated in a bunch of competitions and honors recitals in Fort Dodge when I was growing up. It was really cool getting to know the different people and learning from others.”

The talent competition will be Saturday. More than $500 of cash and prizes are available for the finalists.

Friday and Sunday will feature performances from vocalist Bethany Fagan, Nashville, and pianist Peter Roberts, of Des Moines.

“We got an amazing singer from Nashville. She works with Warner Brothers now,” Buhr said. “I met her in New York City. … One of the greatest voices I’ve ever heard. She does a lot of musical theater, pop and jazz.”

She’ll provide a little of all three this week, Buhr said, and will perform her debut album for the first time.

“We are actually the first people who are going to hear this album.” Buhr said.

Roberts specializes in bringing video game music to piano, Buhr said, as well as adapting electric pop music.

“We will hear a nice diverse array of music from him,” Buhr said.

Pianisit Michelle Havlik-Jergens, of Webster City, will be featured Thursday night for a night of Gershwin, with collaboration from Buhr, Fagan and Bich-Van Nguyen, of Los Angeles.

Artwork on display will include repousse from RA Hamer, of Woolstock, and handcrafted stoles and other fashion from Kolkata, India by Achint Jhunjhunwala.

“I actually met him in Iowa in undergrad,” Buhr said. “Since then he moved to India and started his own fashion line. He makes beautiful stoles and beautiful wardrobe for women in Kolkata.

“That’s kind of why I made it a festival, to bring all these people I come in contact with in my own travels, and try to bring them and their art and their creativity to Fort Dodge.”

Artists from Iowa and farther away have been appreciative, he said.

“I was talking to (Will Brahm) yesterday in LA,” Buhr said. “The festival inspired him to create more of his original music, and his own solo music. He’s been traveling all over the world this past year.”

“Same thing with RA Hamar in Woolstock, Iowa. She’s told me time and again the festival has made her want to create new pieces, and motivated her to kind of invest more in her own art, and her own work.”

Desiring the Arts Festival began from a series of benefit concerts that brothers Sean Buhr and Patrick Buhr produced in order to raise money for a scholarship fund. The McSweeny-Buhr Scholarship for the Arts was created by the brothers to help young aspiring artists further pursue their ambitions in the arts beyond their graduation from high school.

The brothers grew up in Fort Dodge. Sean Buhr is now a singer, actor, songwriter, producer and voice teacher with a bicoastal base in New York City and Los Angeles.

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