Tommy Wasiuta, soaked up the advice during the rehearsal — when to soften his approach, when to motion to the other performers and more.
Helping him was Terry Barber, a performer who toured with Grammy-award winning Chanticleer and has appeared on recordings with Madonna, Jewel, Chaka Khan, Cyndi Lauper, Steve Smith and more. Barber, a countertenor, has performed at world-class venues, including at the Metropolitan Opera, Carnegie Hall and London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall. His personal tours the past five years have ranged from classical to musical theater and even popular music, with hundreds of dates in the United States and Canada.
At the rehearsal, Wasiuta tapped as Barber sang “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” Joy showed on their faces as they performed. “With the arts, you shouldn’t do it if you have to do it but because you love it so much,” Barber said.
Mentoring young artists is Barber’s mission. He’s the founder/executive director of Artists for a Cause, a national nonprofit organization that helps visual and performing artists to use their talents while addressing the critical needs of communities.
Wasiuta, a junior at the University of Missouri-St. Louis and parishioner at St. Patrick Parish in Wentzville, is a member of St. Louis Big Band. He also teaches tap classes and has performed in the St. Louis Veiled Prophet Parade, DanceSTL Spring to Dance Festival, St. Charles Riverfront Concert Series, the Taste of Maplewood Street Festival and Kidz Roc in Branson, Mo.
The two men were rehearsing for Barber’s performance of selections from his album, “Christmas Presence,” which will be Sunday, Dec. 16, at the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet Motherhouse Chapel. The “Christmas Presence” album received six Grammy nominations and was produced by 17-time Grammy winner Steven Epstein.
The holiday program will include Wasiuta and another young artist, musical theater performer Maggie Kuntz, a Cor Jesu Academy graduate and current University of Michigan student who was named outstanding lead actress at the 2017 and 2018 St. Louis High School Musical Theatre Awards. Also on stage, playing violin and viola, will be Amy Greenhalgh and Kris Pineda, playing piano.
The administrative work behind a performance is mundane, Barber said, “but this part is the most enjoyable, though slightly less than sharing it with people.”
Wasiuta said that he gets “an amazing feeling” when he performs because it’s his passion. “When rehearsing for a show like this I always picture a house full of people and sharing this with them, so it makes me happy.”
When working with young artists, Barber tells them to be fun to work with and joyous as well as artistically excellent.
Barber grew up in New Hampshire and moved to St. Louis as an adult. He started voice lessons at age 7, has a bachelor’s degree in music from Northwestern University in Chicago and a master’s degree in music performance from London’s Trinity College of Music.
A member of St. Margaret of Scotland Parish, he enjoys St. Louis for its central location and size. He also has an interest in engineering, dabbling now as a recording engineer.
His mom died in her 50s from lymphoma just when he was about to release his first solo album, for which his mom provided extensive advice. He set the project aside, then came back to it and dedicated it to his mom and gave the proceeds to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. That became the start of Artists for a Cause, now based in St. Louis, which supports artists who serve community needs. Barber especially focuses on helping young artists understand how they can use their talent to help others. “It’s about not just developing great artists but also about developing great people,” he said.
His Catholic faith plays a role in his motivation, a value he learned from his parents to “being mindful of the world beyond your own needs,” he said.
Barber is enamoured with the motherhouse chapel, calling it “a beautiful place for music with wonderful acoustics.” It’s the only Christmas concert he’s doing this season.
Grammy-winning countertenor Terry Barber will present a holiday concert at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 16, at the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet Motherhouse Chapel, 6400 Minnesota Ave. in south St. Louis. Barber will perform selections from his album, “Christmas Presence,” considered for six Grammy nominations. Selections range from classics to classical, carols to popular favorites.
Tickets are $25 for general admission and $15 for students (ages 3-18), and are available for purchase at christmaspresence.bpt.me. For more information about the event, visit www.csjsl.org/events or contact Sarah Baker at (314) 481-8800 or [email protected]. For information about Barber’s music, visit www.terrybarber.com.
>> Twists and turns
Tommy Wasiuta, a member of St. Patrick Parish in Wentzville, said the story of his tap-dancing experience took a number of twists and turns.
He started at age 3 when his older sister took dance lessons and his mom decided it would be best to give him lessons also since she was bringing him with her. He enjoyed it until middle school, he said, when other students teased him about being a dancer. He struggled with it, but his mom encouraged him to continue.
At Francis Howell High School, he tried out for the soccer team and decided if he made the team he’d quit dance so he could concentrate on one activity. But at the end of tryouts, he was cut from the team. It was OK though, Wasiuta said. “I’m so happy that’s how it turned out. At the moment I was sad, but this is where I’m meant to be.”
Wasiuta said he’s thrilled to get to learn from and perform with Barber. And he’s inspired by Artists with a Cause to use his talents for charitable causes. He started buskers for charity, a street art form of musicians and dancers at street festivals that collects tips for children’s hospitals and other causes.
Wasiuta and Terry Barber met through Dance for Food, a program for Artists for a Cause. The next Dance for Food performance is at 8 p.m. Fridays, Jan. 18 and 25, at the Grandel Theater, 3610 Grandel Square in Midtown St. Louis. The price of admission is one bag of nonperishable food.