Sixteen Year Old To Open WBGO Jazz Benefit

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Brittany Henderson

ELIZABETH– Brittany Henderson, a junior at Benedictine Academy in Elizabeth, will perform on at the “WBGO Champions of Jazz Benefit” at the NJ Performing Arts Center in Newark. The 16-year-old will be part of a program with big name jazz artists honor other musical greats including Herb Albert.

Henderson won a spot in the opening act of the WBGO “Champions of Jazz Benefit” at the Victoria Theatre the night of Nov. 10. She is in her second year of NJPAC’s “Wachovia Jazz for Teens Program”. She and Destiny Reese, another 16-year-old who is from Collingswood H.S., will share the spotlight as the opening act on Nov. 10.

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Reese is in her third year of studies in the Wachovia program. This year’s “Champions of Jazz Benefit” will feature performers such as Jon Hendricks, Leny Andrade, Ernie Andrews, Gary U.S. Bonds and Maysa. Master of Ceremonies will be Dee Dee Bridgewater, the Tony and Grammy Award-winning host of the NPR/WBGO weekly radio show, JazzSet.

“It’s exhilarating to be performing in the WBGO “Champions of Jazz Benefit”, said Henderson. “I am extremely excited but also nervous to be the opening act for such big name artists. But I am definitely up to the challenge,” she added. “This is a once in a life-time opportunity to showcase my talent and I plan to make it count,” she noted.

“I knew I wanted to sing since I was about two years old,” Henderson remembered. “My grandmother told me that I would hum Barney songs and sing ‘Yes, Jesus Loves Me’ on a regular basis, and, jump at any and every opportunity to sing.” When asked how she feels about the talent she was obviously born with, Henderson replied- “I am truly appreciative of the talent God has bestowed upon me and I plan to rejoice in His Name!”

Henderson started taking youth performance classes at NJPAC when she was twelve years old. She auditioned for vocals and was accepted into the Performing Arts Center’s program, however, after finding herself learning classical music performance in classes there, she decided that type of music was not her true calling, and moved on. At the age of thirteen, Henderson participated in a pageant- “Hal Jackson’s Talented Teens”, and using her vocal talent, was crowned “Miss Essex County 2007”. That same year, she also participated in the “Union County Arts Festival” and won first place in the singing division.

During her freshman year at Benedictine Academy, she explored acting, playing  multiple roles in a school play, “Quilters”. The show’s director/producer, Liz McConahay Wanfried, invited Henderson to enroll in a NJPAC musical theater class, which Wanfried taught. Henderson attended one semester but switched to vocals the next, deciding to focus on singing rather than acting. She has been at NJPAC ever since, attending the “Young Artist Institute” studying vocals twice a week in the evenings. She was also accepted into the “Wachovia Jazz for Teens Program” which meets on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Henderson has also developed her singing talents on campus during her time at Benedictine Academy, providing vocals for numerous school events and projects. A member of the school’s Gospel Choir, Henderson was inspired to use her talents to write and record a song, “Stand Up for Love”. Although the song can be used for many social justice issues, Brittany decided to take a stand to help eradicate malaria, a preventable disease. The school’s Campus Ministry raised several hundred dollars last spring to purchase medicine and mosquito nets for the “Malaria No More Foundation” in New York City. The arts- creating, producing, and performing- are a daily occurrence at Benedictine Academy, giving Henderson many opportunities to further develop her talents. Theatre and Film are key components of the extracurricular activities at the Academy which believes they are an integral part of humanity and critical to the building of a more humane society.

The Young Artist Institute offers talented young New Jersey performers (ages 11-18) a place to study in an artistically rigorous yet nurturing environment where they receive intensive technique training, personal assistance, encouragement and helpful advice from professional artists. Courses are offered in acting, modern dance, musical theater and vocal music. Arts Education has been a central part of NJPAC’s mission since its inception. Even before the Center opened its doors in October of 1997, the Arts Education Department had been reaching thousands of young people through its in-school and community-based residency programs and performances. Today, NJPAC’s Arts Education program is the fourth largest of the nation’s arts centers.

Brittany Henderson practices recording for Benedcitine Academy's Gospel Choir


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