EWSD — “Heart, don't fail me now. Courage don’t desert me,” Essex High School senior Anneka Shepherd sang from the stage in the EHS auditorium, beginning her performance for the Essex Has Talent show.
The talent show held Feb. 18 was open to students of all ages. After delivering her performance in the final slot Shepherd was awarded the grand champion prize for the competition.
Shepherd is not a stranger to the stage. As a student in the EWSD school of performing arts and a performer at heart, she has sung for the chorus group, acted in school shows and done mini cabarets with a group put together by her voice teacher.
“I’m a performer, that’s what I do,” Shepherd said. “When I’m not performing, I get really sad because that’s what I love to do. I love being around that community of people.”
Standing on a stage with fellow actors and singers is a different experience than holding the stage on her own though, which is what Shepherd did for her Essex Has Talent performance.
“It was a little stressful, I was like ‘Okay, it’s all on me if I mess up,’ but it’s also kind of empowering in a way, ‘You can do this, if you win, it’s all you, it’s all your achievements,’” she said.
Shepherd chose to sing “Journey to the Past” from Disney’s Anastasia, a song she really loves and hadn’t yet performed.
“I like that the first line of the song is about not being stressed, because then I’m kind of mentally preparing myself right when I start performing,” Shepherd said.
Before Shepherd took the stage as the last performer of the night, she was backstage, jumping and shaking her hands to get the stress out.
“I was definitely nervous because performing is scary no matter how many times you go out on stage,” she said.
One reassurance for Shepherd was her friends who were doing crew for the show backstage, telling her she was going to do great.
The song starts off small as the character is getting her bearings, and then begins to open up to a more empowering piece, which Shepherd demonstrated by pairing her performance as a character with her singing.
As the song continued, the lyrics opened up and Shepherd kept moving closer to the stage, physically going through a journey.
“When I get really into a song it’s easy to be that character,” Shepherd said.
After her performance, Shepherd sat in the audience, expecting to get third place, as she had when she performed in the talent show her freshman year and in sixth grade.
“[Winning] was really validating,” she said.
Shepherd will be attending American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York City next fall and is very excited to continue her creative journey. She hopes to eventually get a bachelor of fine arts in musical theater.
Her interest in performing doesn’t end with being behind the microphone. Shepherd writes her own music, is directing the EHS musical and wants to explore all the other facets of the creative process.
“I’m best fit in the performing category, but I love every part of it and I want to eventually be in every role in the creative team at some point,” she said.
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