Gleek (glēk) n. 1. Member of Just for Gleeks Club in Grafton 2. Talented teenager inspired to perform by TV show “Glee”
They sing, they dance, they tease, they applaud. For one hour Monday nights, a group of high-energy teenagers rarely stop moving, talking or singing
Mostly, they just have fun being with friends who enjoy performing as much as they do.
Welcome to the North Shore Academy of the Arts’ Just for Gleeks club in Grafton. The club, which started in September, was intended for people of all ages, but only teenagers signed up for the 12-week session. They undoubtedly saw the similarity to “Glee,” a popular television show about members of a high school glee club.
The club is similar to “Glee,” but these students, ages 14 to 17, attend different schools. Some knew each other before, but only as acquaintances. That changed as they worked together to perfect songs, dances and other routines.
The Gleek Club will show what they’ve accomplished in a 7 p.m. public performance Monday, Nov. 15, at the academy.
The same night, Stephanie Brill, an eighth-grader at Webster Middle School in Cedarburg, will debut her first CD, “Heartbroken Joker,” featuring 10 songs she wrote. She will perform two numbers prior to the Gleek Club show. Brill joined the club after attending a recent rehearsal.
They’re all talented, but some, like Belgium triathlete Haele Jasen, excel in sports or art rather than music. Talent is not a prerequisite, the teenagers said, adding they never criticize each other.
“We’re not a Simon (Cowell, former acerbic judge on ‘American Idol’). We’re more like Paula (Abdul, a much nicer former judge), who found something good about everyone,” Becca Minzlaff of Fredonia said.
Depending on who’s prepared to lead that night, the group may learn a new song or dance routine or hone a previous number as they prepare for their show.
Each week, a student director volunteers to lead a musical number. The group also discusses marketing strategies and seeks venues. They recently performed at a banquet for Special Olympics athletes.
They also post videos of their routines on YouTube.
During a recent session, Talia Lakritz of Mequon handed out lyrics and music for a new song. The group ran through it once, then others added touches, offering suggestions for choreography, solos and vocal variations.
After about 45 minutes, Angela Mack, the academy’s performing arts director and club mentor, asked Talia if she was satisfied with the number.
“Yeah. I think it really came together,” she responded. Others agreed, and it was added to Monday’s program.
At the end of the session, the teens gathered in a circle with Mack and discussed what they learned and what did or didn’t work and why. They then planned the next session.
“Some students step forward to teach and others prefer to follow, and that’s OK,” Mack said.
After seeing how open and carefree the students are with each other, she’s decided to always have a teen club. If adults are interested, she will form a separate glee club for them.
“I think if there are adults here, they (the teenagers) won’t be so free to express themselves,” Mack said.
Talia, who attends Torah Academy in Milwaukee, said she joined the group because she wanted to meet others who like to have fun with music.
“We want to put something together that we’re proud of, but we also have a lot of fun doing it,” she said. “We’re not so serious about it.”
Rachel Wiedner, a student at John Long Middle School in Grafton, used to hate Mondays.
“Now, I look forward to them because I I can come here and express myself,” she said.
Spencer Knier, who plays saxophone, piano and keyboards, is in three choirs and three bands at Webster Middle School in Cedarburg.
“I like to do music,” he said. “I have more opportunity to perform here.”
Becca, who was chosen the 2008 Junior Ozaukee Idol, has performed in musicals and plays at Ozaukee High School in Fredonia and with Lakeshore Productions in Random Lake.
“We have a lot of music programs at our school, but I’m kind of a one-man drama club. No one shares my intense love for acting,” she said.
That’s how Bridget Cushman said she feels about her friends at Homestead High School in Mequon.
“When I’m in school, I don’t have friends who are into music as much as I am,” she said. “I have fun with everyone here.”
Katie Cibulka, a student at Webster Middle School in Cedarburg, spends three hours at the academy on Mondays. Before coming to Gleek Club, she rehearses for an all-ages “Rock of Ages” variety show.
“I’m kind of the obnoxious one because I sing so loud,” Katie said.
Haele replied, “I like it when you sing loud because you help me.”
Haele joined the club because her biking, running and swimming coaches said it would be good for her to relieve stress.
“I’m so serious about competing (in triathlons) and this is fun,” she said.
She also gets to be with her sister Lexi, who enjoys dancing and performing.
For Ethan Brittingham, a Webster student who often brings treats like chocolate-covered pretzels, it’s all about being with friends.
“That’s what the music program is for me. It’s like a big family,” he said.
After spending an hour with the club, Brill asked her mother if she could join.
Brill, who is constantly writing lyrics, ideas or music in her journal, takes piano and music composition classes with Mack, who encouraged her to perfect her songs and record a CD in the academy’s studio.
“That’s what I do. I’m a mentor,” said Mack, who grew up in Fort Atkinson and performed as teenager at the Fireside Theater.
“I really relate to these kids. I wish I had something like this when I was growing up. When I was their age, I wanted to be on Broadway. Now I’m teaching on Broad Street.”
The academy is at 1111 Broad St.
The CD debut for Stephanie Brill’s “Heartbroken Joker” and Gleeks Club show will be at 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 15, at North Shore Academy of the Arts.
The next Just for Gleeks club will start Jan. 10. More information is on the Web site www.northshoreacademyofthearts.com or call 377-3514.
Rehearsing with air guitars, (from left) Bridget Cushman, Rebecca Minzlaff and Ethan Brittingham struck a performing pose. Photo by Sam Arendt