Cleburne ISD students will be performing on stage in the Cleburne Conference Center Theatre from 9:30-11 a.m. on Saturday in conjunction with the Cleburne Chamber of Commerce Business Expo.
Among the star performers is a multi-talented seventh-grader from Wheat Middle School. D.J. Chola began singing in church at a young age. He plays the piano and is a percussionist in the Wheat MS Wind Ensemble. He was awarded All-Star Cast honors for his performance in spring UIL One-Act Play competition. And he is an adept beatboxer.
Wheat students and staff plan to pack the house for Chola’s 10:30 a.m. beatbox performance.
Cleburne ISD employees experienced the 13-year-old’s vocal percussion talents at their Back-to-School Convocation when he provided a beatbox intro to Imagine Dragons’ “Thunder,” the theme song for the event.
“I love beat,” Chola said. “I will be putting my heart into my performance on Saturday. I love music and percussion, and you’ll see my heart — and hopefully my talent.”
While beatboxing is described as an element of hip-hop, with its “turntablism” and other musical instruments, Chola refers to it as a gift, and one he devotes a lot of time to develop. He is inspired by Australian beatbox artist Tom Thum.
“It’s basically making drum set sounds — and all kinds of sounds — with my mouth,” he said. “I think it’s a gift. The hardest sounds for me are the electric base and thunder. It takes a whole lot of practice. I’m currently working on a new dub step sound. You have to figure out the right place to breathe so people won’t even notice.”
Chola’s first public beatbox performance was at the district’s back-to-school event. It gave the young entertainer some positive feedback and encouragement.
“I was pretty surprised by the response,” he said. “I was very frightened, but immediately felt so at home on stage in front of the crowd.”
He will be back on stage in December for Wheat’s first-ever fall theater arts production. Chola successfully auditioned for the role of Wilbur in the school’s presentation of “Charlotte’s Web.”
“I love comedy and I feel ‘Charlotte’s Web’ is a super-soft comedy,” he said. “With Wilbur, I want the audience to have some light moments with the character — and some giggles. I like seeing people smile.”
Wheat theater arts teacher Glynn Mitchell says Chola, who is considering a career in acting, was born to be on stage.
“His talent in unbelievable and his work ethic is above reproach,” Mitchell said. “During any rehearsal he is usually the first on stage and the last to leave it. I cannot wait to see his name in lights.”
Chola, who is also inspired by Michael Jackson, believes it’s good to be starting out young with performing experiences and opportunities.
“Michael Jackson went on stage at a young age and never showed fear,” he said. “I think it’s good to begin young. It’s good on your resume.”
Chola’s resume reflects his budding stage experience, along with his instrument skills which include piano, snare drum, percussion — and his lips. He plans to continue his study of the piano, as it is the “basis for all other instruments,” while expanding to the guitar. Having wrote a play with his younger brother, Preference, a fifth-grader at Marti Elementary School, Chola would also like to write music.
From his singing, as a member of a family of singers, to his numerous performing talents, Chola hopes to bring joy to others, and to give God the glory.
“I just tell God, ‘Thanks,’” he said. “I couldn’t do any of this without him. And I want it to be about him. Everything I have with my talent is from God. I want those talents to bring joy to someone’s heart. It’s important that people feel they are heard, they have a purpose and they matter.”
Saturday’s student performances open at 9:30 a.m. with a musical presentation by Coleman, led by music teacher Jordan Beckett. At 10 am., Smith Middle School seventh-grader Baylee Kelly will provide an encore performance following her debut at the 2017 Business Expo. Kelly is a member of the Smith Middle School varsity choir and the Field Street Baptist Church youth choir.
The Cleburne High School junior varsity and varsity cheerleaders, joined by the Smith and Wheat cheer squads and the CHS Showstoppers Dance Team will take the stage at 11 a.m.