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Broadway star to perform at Augusta benefit concert

Broadway star to perform at Augusta benefit concert

Norman

Maya Brown, a student at Davidson Fine Arts School in Augusta, doesn’t consider herself an artist.

However when she comes to the after-school program at the Jessye Norman School of the Arts, something changes, she said.

“We get to dabble in everything,” Brown said. “When they say, ‘We’re going to do art,’... I say, ‘OK, let’s do art.’”

Brown is just one of many students the school has educated within its 10 years.

On Aug. 18, one man who helped made that possible will return to headline this year’s benefit concert Broadway and Beyond – Russell Joel Brown.

Brown, born and raised in Augusta, is now a Broadway regular.

However, he still keeps tabs on the school that means so much to him, he said.

Accompanying him will be LaShonda Reese, vocals; Dr. Rosalyn Floyd, piano; David Heath, bass; Michael West, drums; Joe Collier, trumpet; Justin Reeves and Christopher Wilson, dancers; and the Jessye Norman School of the Arts Vocal Ensemble.

Jessye Norman, opera legend who has stayed very involved with the school since its creation, will emcee the concert.

In 1993, Brown saw Norman for the first time.

It was at the Washington National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall, who retired two years prior, had passed away, according to the Associated Press.

Brown was singing in the choir; Norman was a scheduled act.

A man was double-booked that day – he also had to perform at The Metropolitan Opera in New York City.

When this man had to bow out, Brown stepped up.

But, not before, Norman had her moment.

When she sang “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” it just her voice, a tambourine and 5,000 people, Brown said.

“It was almost like the heavens opened up,” Brown said. “It was one of the most transformative performances I’ve ever heard.”

Brown had to follow her.

Performing that day, for Marshall, was one of the proudest points of his careers so far, he said.

The JNSA concert will be the first time in eight years Brown has performed in Augusta, according to a release.

The show starts at 5 p.m., at the Maxwell Theatre for Performing Arts at Georgia Regents University.

Paintings by the school’s students and professional artists will be amongst the items auctioned off. Backstage passes to meet the artists are included in the online auctions; for more information, visit www.freecharityauctions.com/view-auctions.

Tickets are $40 for adults and $20 for students younger than 25 with a valid student ID.

All proceeds go towards JSNA, according to the release.

The arts school is located at 739 Greene St., while GRU is at 1120 15th St., Augusta.

Locally, Brown has performed through the “From Mozart to Motown!” series. On the Broadway stage, he has appeared in musicals like “Smokey Joe’s Cafe” and “The Lion King.”

His Russell Joel Brown Foundation is designed to condition upcoming artists for the professional world that awaits, he said.

Brown has been able to travel the world with his talents, but it all started here in the CSRA.

He was Bunny Number Six in the Augusta Player’s Youth Wing production of “Winnie the Pooh” in 1972.

For more information on the school and concert, visit www.jessyenormanschool.org or call 706-826-4713.

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