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Thane Peterson was among a group of CHS students invited to perform at an honors choir/band event at Western Washington University. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

Combining vocals and instrumentals, Coupeville High School students took the music world by storm earlier this week.

Nine Wolves traveled to Western Washington University Monday to take part in the WWU Honor Festival, a showcase for talented choir and band students.

Mica Shipley, Thane Peterson, Ashleigh Battaglia and Melissa Otto participated in choir, and the video below showcases some of their work.

They were joined by Jakobi Baumann, Harris Sinclair, Nikolai Lyngra, Kaley Grigsby and Jaschon Baumann, who played in the honors band.

The event drew students from Island, San Juan, Whatcom and Skagit counties.

 

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Kiara Burdge (John Fisken photo)

There’s no stopping Kiara Burdge.

The former Wolf cheer captain, who graduated with the Coupeville High School Class of 2017, is back in the spotlight (where she deserves to be), after dropping a new song.

Two Simple Words” is actually from 2015, and it’s the first song she wrote, but it just made its internet debut thanks to SoundCloud.

Burdge, who has gone on to write and sing quite a bit more, remembers this first effort fondly, as it lit a fire under her creative side.

“This song has a special place in my heart because it was the first time I realized creating music was a possible outlet for me, and that realization changed my life,” she said.

So, take a listen, and catch an ever-soaring star, so you can say you knew Kiara before the rest of the world caught on to how amazing she is.

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The man, the myth, the legend, Jim Castaneda. (Jeffery McKeown photo)

The man, the myth, the legend, Jim Castaneda. (Jeffery McKeown photo)

Castaneda

   Castaneda (second from left) and his acapella group Kickshaw, opening for Huey Lewis (black shirt) in 2002. (Photo courtesy Castaneda)

Castaneda as Gomez in The Addams Family. (Katie Woodzick photo)

On-stage as Gomez in The Addams Family. (Katie Woodzick photo)

Gazing into a bright musical future. (McKeown photo)

Gazing into a bright musical future. (McKeown photo)

The song remains the same, but the venue is changing.

After a decade-plus of balancing cooking at Christopher’s on Whidbey with his musical career, Jim Castaneda is leaving behind the sizzle of the kitchen and fully embracing his life behind the mic.

The veteran singer/songwriter, who has graced many a stage as a solo artist, a member of several successful groups, and, in recent years, as a song and dance man on the theatrical stage, is jazzed for what’s ahead.

“I feel like I’ve found a sound, a songwriting voice and a live presentation that lets me explore my musicality,” Castaneda said. “I’ve been in situations surrounding live performance for long enough now that I know when something reaches people.

“I’ve talked with numerous fans, friends, family, business owners and musicians alike who genuinely enjoy what I’m bringing to the table,” he added. “I’m not getting any younger and I want to be able to share my live art in more places.

“I think I have put together a marketable musical project, and as my songs are still lining up in notebooks and studio demos, ready to be developed … and as maybe the world needs a little more of the positive groove … and as … why now? why not?”

Castaneda will continue to work the line regularly at Christopher’s through the end of Feb., before fully kicking off the new direction in a musical career which began as a young teen.

Fans can catch him at Rustica in Oak Harbor, where he hosts an open mic every Thursday, and Castaneda has a plum gig performing at the annual Penn Cove Mussel Fest.

He’ll play in the waterfront tent at 11:30 AM Saturday, Mar. 4.

“My second year in a row!,” he said. “Just look for the chowder ticket line and listen for the music, you’ll find me.

“Then you’ll find me and (wife) Heidi cruizin’ around C-town slurping down mussel chowders.”

Castaneda will also be returning to Blooms Winery in Langley for its Sunday afternoon concert series and is slated to do another stint as a judge for Whidbey Has Talent.

Auditions begin in March, with local middle school students coming together at the Oak Harbor High School auditorium Apr. 9 for the big show.

“Last year was a wonderful time and a successful first year,” Castaneda said. “It’s an awesome day seeing the talent these kids bring to the stage.

“Some of them even got to play at this year’s Oak Harbor Music Festival. Good stuff.”

Another relatively new addition to his musical empire came courtesy of former Christopher’s co-worker Chelsea Randall, who brought him into the world of musical theater at the Whidbey Island Center for the Arts.

After making his debut playing multiple roles (jazz crooner, cop, doctor) in a production of City of Angels choreographed by Randall and directed by her mom, Elizabeth Herbert, Castaneda had the acting bug.

From there, he’s been a dancing Santa, “tasted the sweet darkness” as Gomez in The Addams Family, and had major roles in everything from 1776 to Spamalot.

Currently, he’s on the lighting crew for the Whidbey Playhouse production of Into the Woods.

“Part of my intention upon getting involved in theater was to learn about larger scale, professional productions,” Castaneda said. “I had no idea I’d learn so much.

“Not only about the acting, which I love, but I got a chance to be on the stage managing team with two productions and this year I’m helping run a surprisingly intricate lighting system.”

Castaneda plans to return to the stage often, though he will put it on the back burner a bit in the coming days.

“Would love to act more, but my creative life needs to be focused on making music,” he said. “I can be an old man actor after I lose my teeth and can’t beat box anymore.”

For now, the music is the thing.

“Playing music, writing music, collaborating and sharing the stage with other musicians, producing more audio and some performance video here and there,” Castaneda said. “I’ll be concentrating on generating an abundant live performance schedule over the next decade.

“Music festivals, taprooms, wineries, promoters, talent agents, bars, clubs, parties – you name it,” he added. “Working to establish myself as a go-to versatile musician.

“I’ve worked hard to hone my skills and develop my sound and now I’m off to find my audience.”

As he departs the kitchen, he leaves behind a large family comprised of current and former workmates, who hail him for his easy-going nature, his dedication to his craft and his calmness under fire on the many nights when the Christopher’s kitchen was really hoppin’.

Jim is one of those people that you meet in life and you think to yourself, I’m really glad I know him,” said former Christopher’s manager Kelsey Simmons. “Jim has a gracious way of connecting with people which has made him a great person to be around at Christopher’s, and successful within the music industry.

“I can’t wait to watch Jim jump into his music with both feet.”

Castaneda answered a newspaper ad, and found an immediate connection with “Master Dre‘,” owner/chef Andreas Wurzrainer.

“It’s been an incredible place to work. Andreas and (wife) Lisa have never been anything but gracious and flexible with schedule.

“Mine has been a challenging one, but we found a place for me on the team where I could contribute where they needed and I could also work toward my goals in the music business at the same time.”

Being a quick seven-minute drive from his house (or less, depending on urgency), Christopher’s became a second home for Castaneda, one where he found new challenges and rewards.

“I know how to cook! And I mean really cook.”

Put in a decade at a restaurant, even one where the staff turnover was remarkably low for much of that time, and you get a chance to work with a wide variety of people.

It was an experience Castaneda cherishes.

“I have worked with quite a few servers, cooks and dishwashers over the years. Everyone has their own special way about them,” he said. “I got to know some and some moved on too soon. Some took care of kitchen knives; some did not. Some come back every now and then and some weren’t really ever there in the first place.

“Some went and had babies and some are in the middle of having babies right now. One plays the banjo for his baby,” Castaneda added. “Some were older; some were in for their first job. Some were locals from birth and some were from California.

“Some thought they knew what they were doing when they didn’t and some were more talented than they thought. Some became friends and some I’ll never see again.”

As he edges for the door (which will always remain open should he choose to ever return), Castaneda does so with his customary low-key smile still firmly intact.

“The team right now works well together and is filled with personality and talented, goodhearted people,” he said. “It’s an environment I hope they appreciate as much as I have.

“All workplaces are not created equal. I will miss it.”

 

To follow Jim’s musical career, pop over to:

http://www.originaljim.com/

 

Full disclosure: I worked with Jim at Christopher’s from 2012-2015.

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Allison Wenzel

Allison Wenzel is ready to play that funky music. (John Fisken photo)

Get ready Benaroya Hall, there’s a Wolf at the door.

Coupeville High School quintuple threat (volleyball, basketball, track, music) Allison Wenzel is headed to the home of the Seattle Symphony and she’s bringing her French horn with her.

The CHS musical maestro will perform Sunday, Feb. 19 with the Washington Music Educators Association All-State High School Concert Band.

Wenzel is the only Coupeville musician to make the cut, and it will make for an intensive week.

She’ll hit the road Tuesday and Thursday for district playoff games in Tacoma with the CHS girls’ basketball squad, then devote Fri.-Sun. to rehearsing and performing with her musical peers.

While sports are a big part of her daily routine, so is music, as Wenzel plays the French horn, trumpet, trombone and mellophone and is teaching herself the clarinet.

She works with music teacher Sean Brown, while Coupeville School District music director Jamar Jenkins helped her record her audition for her Benaroya debut.

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Allison Wenzel (John Fisken photo)

   When she’s not laying down the law on the basketball court, Wolf junior Allison Wenzel is a mega-talented musician. (John Fisken photo)

She’s a quintuple threat.

When Allison Wenzel isn’t busy whuppin’ on people in one of her three sports (volleyball, basketball and track), the Coupeville High School junior is a musical maestro.

She currently plays the French horn, trumpet, trombone and mellophone and is teaching herself the clarinet.

So it should come as little surprise that Wenzel has been plucked out of obscurity and selected to perform with the Washington Music Educators Association All-State High School Concert Band.

The only CHS student to nab the honor, she’ll join her fellow musicians in Bellevue in Feb., 2017.

Wenzel has been working with music teacher Sean Brown, while Coupeville School District music director Jamar Jenkins helped her record her audition.

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