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Oldham County Day

Diverse talent makes up
Oldham County Day lineup

Studio M to feature dance routines
as part of entertainment

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

July 2006 Kentucky Cover

July 2006 Kentucky
Edition Cover

LA GRANGE, Ky. (July 2006) – Since opening her performance art studio one year ago in Oldham County, Mel Smither can’t think about anything other than giving her heart and soul to the students she teaches every day.
Studio M is a diverse group of local talent of all ages. Smither has students ranging from ages 6 to 62. “We are a production company as much as a studio,” she said.
Smither not only coaches the students in performance art through song, speaking and dance, but often teaches them the technological side of acting. They run their own shows by learning the basics of how to direct lighting, sound, write programs, and design flyers from their studio located behind the Mallory Taylor building in La Grange.
Studio M will perform from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. on the East Lawn on Oldham County Day, along with a long program of other entertainment. Their repertoire will include a variety of selections from a show that will be presented the following weekend. “M Stock, Love Songs to the World,” is a collection of rock, pop and country songs that will appeal to all ages.
Studio M is made up of about 35 students who are encouraged to do everything “to figure out what they like,” said Smither. These drama-driven performers are encouraged to write their own monologues, songs, and dramatic pieces. “What they say comes from them,” said Smither.
For Smither, Studio M is all about communicating feelings and instilling confidence in children. “A lot of studios are into competition. It’s a whole different ballgame,” said Smither. But her performances “are not recitals, they’re shows.”
Smither, 46, has taught at the Music Theatre of Louisville, Derby Dinner Playhouse in Clarksville, Ind., and on her own. She is also the former youth program director at the Little Colonel Playhouse in Pewee Valley.
Students in this later program wrote their own shows and musicals. Through her work with the Little Colonel Playhouse, she really became familiar with her students and had a chance to see how incredibly talented they really are.
Studio M will offer dance classes in the fall, which will lead up to a Disney-themed production. Students will choose either a big opening number or the grand finale to participate in, and learn all dance steps and song routine for the number they choose.
Also on the East Lawn from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. will be performer Joe Vala. Accompanied by acoustic guitar and keyboards, Vala will entertain crowds with his own version of classic rock and blues music.

Public Library Float

Photo by Darrel Taylor

Last year’s Oldham County Public Library
parade float featuring a Harry Potter
theme motors down Main Street.

Originally from New Jersey, Vala sang with bands and performed as a solo artist from 1983 until 1999 after graduating from high school. He experienced some regional fame on the East Coast.
He was transferred to Kentucky in 1996 because of his job with the United Parcel Service and often sang in his church, Highview Baptist. Vala is now ready “to get out and play again,” he said.
Vala, 41, said he began playing in clubs when he was 15. He writes some of his own music.
Oldham County Day will be a good test “to see if I want to get back into performing,” said Vala. He had taken time off for health issues but said he misses the fun of performing and prefers smaller venues.
Most entertainers on Oldham County Day are returning acts, such as Living Statues, various church singing groups, Tae Kwon Do demonstrations, the Oldham County Community Band, the Oldham County Singers, clogging groups, with one more new act for this year, Totem Soul.
When it comes to entertainment, “we’re always looking for new and different things,” said Melissa Walton, Project Guild Entertainment Chairperson for Oldham County Day.

Mel Smither

Photo provided

Mel Smither leads a group of dancers
at her Studio M in La Grange. The troupe
will perform at Oldham County Day.

Project Guild, which organizes Oldham County Day, sends out letters to past performers to solicit entertainment for the day.
This year, the Project Guild has had to re-route its annual Saturday morning parade because of the rough condition of the railroad tracks on Main Street, according to the Guild’s Lucy Ricketts. Normally, the route would run east on Jefferson, turn right onto Walnut, then turn onto Main Street. This year, it will go across Main to Washington Street (instead of turning and staying on Main), then across Hwy. 53 and right onto Second Street to avoid the tracks.
There will still be booths on Main Street, she added.

• For more information on Oldham County Day, contact Melissa Walton at (502) 222-9514. For information on joining Studio M, contact Mel Smither at (502) 320-9178.

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