Lip Sync Battle in the ’Burg
On Wednesday, Any Given Child Harrisonburg will host its own version of the celebrated show at Court Square Theater at 7 p.m. in its event Lip Sync Battle in the ’Burg.
According to Any Given Child Harrisonburg’s website, it’s a partnership initiative sponsored by the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., focused on providing arts programming and education to kids all over the nation. A program the city of Harrisonburg and Harrisonburg City Public Schools applied to be a part of, AGCH provides art experiences for kids in pre-K through eighth grade. AGCH is currently in its third year of implementation since being selected for the national program in August 2014.
J.R. Snow, the director or AGCH and a JMU alumnus (’99), came up with the idea of hosting a lip sync battle as a fundraiser while watching the TV show. Wanting to put on an affordable event where people could have fun, Snow decided a lip sync battle would be a perfect, low-budget way to raise money for AGCH. “We were sitting around and we were flipping through channels [and] it came up,” Snow said. “And I said, ‘You know what? I think this model could actually work if we could find some fun folks who we’d want to come out and kind of make fun of themselves a little bit, have a good time and create some opportunities for people to come to an affordable fundraiser.’”
While this is the third year AGCH has hosted the event, this year’s lip sync battle is different from years past. Previously, the event was held over three nights with two preliminary rounds and a final. This year, the event will be consolidated into one night, and five contestants will compete for what Snow calls “the illustrious title of Lip Sync Battle Champion of Harrisonburg.”
Similar to the past, Lip Sync Battle in the ’Burg has contestants prepare two songs to perform for the audience. The show will feature small interviews with the contestants as well as judges to make comments on their respective performances.
People from all over the country can cast their vote for favorite contestants online for $1 per vote prior to the event, but if they purchase a $25 ticket to the show online or at the event, voting is free. The money raised from Lip Sync Battle in the ’Burg goes directly toward arts programming for children in the community. Last year, AGCH raised close to $20,000 toward its initiative through the event.
Instead of having star-studded contestants like the TV show, AGCH invites members of the community to participate in Lip Sync Battle in the ’Burg. This year’s show features five contestants from vastly different backgrounds, including a contestant who works at the high school, a young professional from JMU and a music teacher from the Harrisonburg school division.
“It really has been very diverse,” Snow said. “I have the pleasure of giving them the call and [saying], ‘Hey, I think you’d be awesome at this. Are you willing to have some fun with us and do this?’ It’s a great conversation, and so lots of people have been willing to do it.”
Maggie Hagy, a music teacher at W.H. Keister Elementary School and a JMU alumna (’15), is one of this year’s contestants. Recruited by Snow during her first week of her job at Keister, Hagy knew she had to step her game up when she found out she was one of five people competing. She frequently performs all over town as a singer and says this event will be new for her.
“I can sing, right? Like, that’s my thing is I can sing,” Hagy said. “But this is not singing, this is lip syncing. And so I have had to try and work some of my talents in a very creative way ... It’ll hopefully be a little surprise, but hopefully bring in some of my own personal talents to the stage.”
Kristen Loflin is a JMU alumna (master’s in ’04) and mental health and substance abuse counselor with her own practice. Her extensive preparation has transformed into an elaborate performance, from making costumes to conducting rehearsals. While she’s attended AGCH’s past lip sync battles and said she’s never laughed harder in her life, this is Loflin’s first year as a contestant and she plans on going all out. Both songs she’s preparing involve other performers — her first with her two children and her second with a group of 12 friends who are avid supporters of the fine arts programs.
Loflin has enjoyed getting the group together to get creative with their performance.
“Everyone in this group is so dedicated and busy and we are just having a blast laughing at ourselves, laughing at each other, getting creative, which is, you know, what Any Given Child is really all about,” Loflin said.
Alan Quimby, a technology resource teacher and JMU alumnus (’00), is making his return to the Lip Sync Battle on the ’Burg stage this year. Some may remember Quimby from 2016’s lip sync battle, where he donned a platinum wig to play the convincing role Sandy in his friend’s performance of a “Grease” song. This year, Quimby is making a comeback as a main contestant. Previously a fifth-grade teacher, he says he’s used to making a fool of himself to get people interested and is excited to perform for this year’s audience. “I think being on stage with the crowd reacting is what I’m looking forward to most,” Quimby said. “It’s a lot of fun for people to be laughing and smiling.”
While Snow hopes that Lip Sync Battle in the ’Burg gives people a chance to come out and have fun, he also expects the event to help provide further opportunities for the children of Harrisonburg.
“The whole point of the initiative is about this idea of collective impact,” Snow said. “Meaning we’re going to bring the community together to kind of really battle this work. And so I think the most exciting thing is one, we get to share it with an audience about the work that we do, and two, we get to have a lot of fun with people and at the end of the night, everybody walks away knowing we provided some opportunities for kids and that kids are going to get artistic experiences because of their willingness to come out on a Wednesday night in Harrisonburg.”