This Sunday, the Bowie Center for the Performing Arts will showcase community talent with a variety show featuring 25 visual artists and 18 musical acts.
“There’s a little bit of everything,” says Mary Nusser, outreach coordinator at the center. “It makes me feel that the 12 years we worked to build the center was done for a good reason.”
The Bowie Center for the Performing Arts opened in 2004 after 12 years of fundraising efforts — led largely in part by Nusser and a group of volunteers who also are responsible for organizing Bowie’s Finest Variety Show this weekend. The women hosted several Taste of Talent fundraisers in the early 2000s in order to raise money to build the center.
“That’s how this core group met,” Nusser says. “Almost every single one of them helped build this place.”
Nusser says Sunday’s variety show has been talked about for several years, but the committee of volunteers finally got together this summer to start planning the event.
“[We] thought a variety show would be fun for the whole family,” Nusser says.
Like the volunteers who worked to make the show a reality, many of the artists featured in Sunday’s showcase are returning to a performing arts center they helped build.
Singer Owen Adams was just 9 years old when he served as the opening act for one of the Taste of Talent fundraisers. Adams, who graduated high school in 2008 and accepted a full scholarship to the University of Maryland’s music department, returns to the center to perform on Sunday.
“These are people we’ve worked with throughout the years and [who] are willing to give their gift back to the community,” Nusser says. “Most people want to do it because they love to.”
A longtime member of the Bowie music community, Sylma Gottlieb will have the opportunity on Sunday to showcase her own talent and to watch some of the local talent she’s helped develop.
At 90 years old, Gottlieb has lived in the Tulip Grove section of Bowie for 49 years and has been a music teacher in the city for just as long.
“I love to teach,” Gottlieb says. “It’s the love of my life.”
An active member of the Bowie Music Teachers Association, Gottlieb also was on the board to build the performing arts center.
“Before ... you had to go to Baltimore or Washington to enjoy good music,” Gottlieb says. “[The center brought] the arts to this community.”
Many of Gottlieb’s students have gone on to pursue serious careers in music and entertainment.
Michael-Leon Wooley, who went to Gottlieb for voice lessons growing up, has appeared on Broadway in shows like “The Music Man” and “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” and even has branched out into film, with a role in Disney’s 2009 movie “The Princess and the Frog.”
But perhaps Gottlieb’s most well-known pupil is talk show host Kathie Lee Gifford, who Gottlieb says was a piano student of hers.
“The big joke was that I told her mother, ‘she doesn’t practice,’ and that ‘she wasn’t going to get anywhere,’” Gottlieb laughs.
Some of Gottlieb’s students who haven’t reached fame just yet will appear at Sunday’s showcase. Ayva Muller-Schrurer is the show’s youngest performer at 7 years old and Gottlieb says she’s got “pizzazz.”
Emily Casey, a graduate of Catholic University and a former student of Gottlieb’s, will sing opera.
Gottlieb will perform herself, singing “I Really Like Him” from “Man of La Mancha” and doing a narration of English composer Alan Ridout’s “The Emperor and the Bird of Paradise.”
“There is going to be a nice variety of music that’s going to appeal to both young and old,” Gottlieb says.
“It’s a really nice assortment,” Nusser adds. “I hope that it’s a demonstration of all that’s possible in our own local community.”