The Pops Orchestra Presents "The Spirit of America" with Guest Artists from the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe

The Pops Orchestra Presents

The Pops Orchestra welcomes Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe performers Amber Myers, Maicy Powell, CJ Melton, and Raleigh Mosely II  in presentation of The Spirit of America, featuring spirituals, gospel tunes, and anthems, along with stirring patriotic selections to honor our nation's veterans.
Join conductor Robyn Bell as she talks to these four talented singers about their lives, careers with WBTT, and the importance of this music in the history of America and as part of America's gifts to the world.

You have two opportunities to see this show:
1. Sunday, November 6 at 3:00 p.m. at the Riverview Performing Arts Center and
2. Monday, November 7 at 7:30 p.m at the Neel Performing Arts Center

Get your tickets at or by calling 941-926-POPS (7677)

The Pops Orchestra: Music You Love, Musicians You Know.
We'll see you at the show!

The Pops Orchestra of Bradenton and Sarasota Website & Facebook & Instagram

• Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe Website & Facebook & Instagram & YouTube

Support the show


Robyn Bell: Friends, what good is this podcast if I can't tell you about my favorite performances? Of course, they are the Pops Orchestra shows, and we have our first one of the season coming up Sunday, November 6th at 3:00 PM at the Riverview Performing Arts Center, and Monday, November 7th at 7:30 PM at the SCF Neel Performing Arts Center. It is called the Spirit of America and will feature spirituals, anthems, gospel tunes, and many stirring patriotic selections to celebrate our veterans. And today I am pleased to welcome our guest artists for this show on the podcast. These four amazing musicians come to us from the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe, and they are absolutely the sprinkles on the cupcakes as far as I am concerned. Amber Myers, Maicy Powell, CJ Melton, and Raleigh Mosely II, have been rehearsing with me for about a month now and had their first rehearsal with the Pops last Monday night where we were all just blown away at their talent and preparation. I am going to talk to the ladies first. So Amber and Maicy, welcome to the club.

Amber Myers: Thank you. I'm happy. 

Robyn Bell: Yes, all the way. Sarasota up to Bradenton, the State College of Florida, and my podcast Studio . Fancy stuff. We'll have to get a photo later. 

Maicy Powell: Yes. 

Robyn Bell: Now, Amber, you and I have known each other for a very long time. Mm-hmm. , because you were a music student in the SCF Music Program. What years were you here? Do you remember?

Amber Myers: I was here. The fall of 2012, I think. Okay. either between 12 or 2013 to, I think 2015.

Robyn Bell: So you would've been in that group where we, did Carmina Burana for that sold out crowd in February, 2015. You remember that?

Amber Myers: I do, 

Robyn Bell: Yes. 

Amber Myers: For a lot of reasons. 

Robyn Bell: Tell Yeah. I remember it cuz I, two days before that I completed my doctoral defense and my dissertation. But you have an even special, more reason to remember. 

Amber Myers: Yes. I was pregnant during that time 

Robyn Bell: and those first hits. Paul of O Fortuna. I'm sure that baby was like, What is going on out there? 

Amber Myers: Yeah. There were a couple times during rehearsal where like, she was like moving around in there and I was like, Calm the I gotta sing. I can't be distracted. 

Robyn Bell: That was a very special performance. 

Amber Myers: Yeah. 

Robyn Bell: Okay. So, what other groups you were in the, I guess that would've been the concert choir and the chamber choir. 

Amber Myers: Yes. 

Robyn Bell: What other groups were you in during. 

Amber Myers: I was in the musical Theatre program as well. 

Robyn Bell: What shows did you do?

Amber Myers: Whew. I did Children of Eden. 

Robyn Bell: Yeah, 

Amber Myers: Which was one of my favorite. 

Robyn Bell: It's a great show. 

Amber Myers: I'd never heard of it until we got there, until I got to SCF and I. I loved it. It was so great. We did a West Side story. 

Robyn Bell: Oh, that's an okay. Show too, I guess. . 

Amber Myers: It's alright. No, just kidding. Um, of course we had the showcase, Yeah. Mm-hmm. . So I think I did two or three of those. Which other, There was another musical I was in, you know, I think, honestly, I think being pregnant, like it was a blur. , 

Robyn Bell: you know, Baby fog, It was a, 

Amber Myers: Yeah, 

Robyn Bell: baby brain fog. 

Amber Myers: It was a blur. 

Robyn Bell: know, what about the musical Theatre? Because the concert choir and the chamber choir helped develop you vocally. 

Amber Myers: Yes. 

Robyn Bell: But it's that musical Theatre experience that developed you as an entertainer. 

Amber Myers: Yeah. 

Robyn Bell: And a dancer and an actress. Right. 

Amber Myers: For sure. Before I got to SCF I could not read music at all. 

Robyn Bell: Wow. 

Amber Myers: I'd never had any experience with it at all. I'd never done classical music. No experience in that.

Robyn Bell: That's ama like you weren't in your high school choir?. 

Amber Myers: I was Okay. But in my high school choir, we weren't required to read music. Mm-hmm. , I think our, director, who was also actually a student at the time, his name is Matthew McKinnon. He just kind of like, , he listened to the tracks and he would like talk us through it and just teach us the parts.

Robyn Bell: Yeah. 

Amber Myers: So we never got music. We never learned how to read, at least me. Mm-hmm. . Um, I never learned how to read music. And so when I got there, of course at first I was very overwhelmed. 

Robyn Bell: Right? 

Amber Myers: Because being in the choir, I was like, Wait, we have to read music here. And I was like, I don't know how to do this. And, um, through Ms. Dickerson, cuz she was my private voice teacher, she was like, Okay, until we figure this out, just follow the dots. 

Robyn Bell: Yeah, 

Amber Myers: just follow the dots and listen to the person sitting next to you and you're gonna figure it out. And um, 

Robyn Bell: you know what I, you know, I say it's much like when we're children and you have now experienced this, having a child of your own. Our children and, and us as we are children. We learned to talk many years before we learned to read. 

Maicy Powell: Right, 

Robyn Bell: Right. We could carry on conversations. We figured out language before we knew what it looked like on a piece of paper. 

Maicy Powell: Exactly. 

Robyn Bell: And you learn music the same way. And this is, you know, the Suzuki method, if you've ever heard of that. That's their philosophy. Let's just, let's just perform music, sing or play music. Mm-hmm. and then. We'll teach you how to read it and it's the philosophy of how we learn how to speak. Mm-hmm. . 

Amber Myers: Wow. 

Robyn Bell: It worked for you. 

Amber Myers: Yeah, it did. 

Robyn Bell: It did. So what high school did you go to? 

Amber Myers: I went to the Westcoast School for Human Development.

Robyn Bell: Okay. 

Amber Myers: Yes. Um,

Robyn Bell: where is that located? I've never heard of it

Amber Myers: in Sarasota. It's a private Christian school and it's like a very small 

Robyn Bell: Okay. 

Amber Myers: Private Christian school. Like I graduated with one other person. 

Robyn Bell: Graduating class of two. Yes. So one of you was the valedictorian and one was the salutatorian. . 

Amber Myers: Exactly.

Robyn Bell: I love that. I love that. Now, once you left SCF, where did you go then? 

Amber Myers: I started working with the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe. 

Robyn Bell: Oh, right away? 

Amber Myers: Yes. 

Robyn Bell: Okay.

Amber Myers: At first I was just backstage. Even though I was in like musical theatre and choir and SCF, like it was very intimidating. Mm-hmm. to audition for an actual theatre company.

Robyn Bell: Sure. 

Amber Myers: So at first I was like, let me just start behind the scenes and figure things out. 

Robyn Bell: Right. 

Amber Myers: And observe and grow and learn from what other people are doing. And eventually I was like, Okay, I'm gonna audition for a show. 

Robyn Bell: Do you remember what your first show was? 

Amber Myers: It was Purlie.

Robyn Bell: Okay. Yeah. 

Maicy Powell: I love that show.

Amber Myers: Yes, I love the show too. I was ensemble, but it was so great. It was so much fun. The cast was great, the director was great. 

Robyn Bell: Do you know how many shows you've done since then with Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe?

Amber Myers: Hmm. 

Maicy Powell: Wow. That is a question. 

Amber Myers: Um, I think 

Robyn Bell: But you, you are regularly performing with them.

Amber Myers: Yes.

Robyn Bell: Yeah. 

Amber Myers: I do. At least one show a season. 

Robyn Bell: Okay. 

Amber Myers: At least. Not to mention side gigs that they have going on, 

Robyn Bell: like with the Pops Orchestra. 

Amber Myers: Exactly. coming full circle back around. Exactly.

Robyn Bell: So what do you do, Amber, in your free time when you're not performing? 

Amber Myers: Hmm. Actually, I really like to sing with my church.

Robyn Bell: Okay. Let's give a shout out. Which church is that? 

Amber Myers: Evergreen. 

Robyn Bell: Okay. 

Amber Myers: Evergreen Church. It's amazing. If anyone's interested, 

Robyn Bell: you sing in the choir there? 

Amber Myers: I do. Also, I really like to read. Fiction mostly, but I'm getting into the non-fiction now, so, 

Robyn Bell: Yeah. But the fiction stuff, it takes us away from the really doldrum realities of life.

Yes. I love 

Amber Myers: fiction. I like very distraction. 

Robyn Bell: Do you work, you have a job other than, performing?

Amber Myers: yes, actually. I sell on the side, I sell Mary Kay products. 

Robyn Bell: Yes. Well, I was wondering. Your skin looks beautiful. 

Amber Myers: Thank you. I know it's glowing , but yeah, I sell Mary Kay products to just get some extra cash rolling in, 

Robyn Bell: And I saw that pink Cadillac driving down the road the other day. Was that you? 

Amber Myers: Not yet. But you get, Thank you for speaking it into existence cuz you have to be a, a millionaire in the company to get one of those.

Robyn Bell: You gotta put that out into the world. 

Amber Myers: Yes. 

Robyn Bell: How's my makeup today? 

Amber Myers: It's great. It looks beautiful. 

Robyn Bell: It's not Mary Kay, but let's talk later . 

Amber Myers: Gotcha. We will. 

Robyn Bell: I'm gonna tell you, I do have a Mary Kay story. I don't know why I would talk about this on the podcast, but when I was in college, someone said, you know, Hey, we're having a Mary Kay party. And I went and I'm a trumpet player. You, you might know this and play trumpet and in. Like I wasn't conducting yet. I was playing trumpet, and this lady wanted me to buy lipstick and I said, No, I can't. I don't wear lipstick because I'm a trumpet player. She goes, Oh, you have to. Lipstick. I said, I do not have to have lipstick and you are not gonna make me buy lipstick. So , if you ever come across, you know someone that says, No, I don't wear lipstick, just go. Okay, I understand because Robyn Bell doesn't wear lipstick cuz she plays the trumpet and I get it.

Amber Myers: And I will say that whole spiel, that's . 

Robyn Bell: You should, 

Amber Myers: I don't know. You. 

Robyn Bell: You should. So we, I wanna say that you are currently, you're kind of doing double duty here because you're performing with the Pops, but you are also in that fabulous production of Guys and Dolls that the Troupe is doing, right? 

Amber Myers: Yes. 

Robyn Bell: Tell us a little bit about that.

Amber Myers: It's really great. actually for that one, I'm working backstage for that one. 

Robyn Bell: Okay. 

Amber Myers: But I mean, honestly, backstage and onstage, it's like two different shows in and of itself. There's 

Robyn Bell: So what, what is your role backstage? What would you be doing? 

Amber Myers: I am the lead stage hand. So basically what,

Robyn Bell: like first chair.

Amber Myers: Yeah, kinda like that actually. Yes, it's okay. Um, I kind of like assist if any of the actors come to me. They're like, Hey, my button just fell off. 

Robyn Bell: Oh, 

Amber Myers: I'd be like, Great. And we would figure out how to fix, get that button back on before they go on stage.

Robyn Bell: You are the problem solver. 

Amber Myers: I am. 

Robyn Bell: But now they have a performance of Guys and Dolls on the Sunday that we are doing the Pop. So do you have someone that's gonna be able to fill in?

Amber Myers: I do My, my boss. 

Robyn Bell: Oh 

Amber Myers: yes. She

Robyn Bell: Turn over the reigns 

fill in for me. 


Amber Myers: So, yeah. 

Robyn Bell: Well, thank you Boss. Robyn Bell appreciates that. 

Amber Myers: Right? Shout out to Adrian Pitts. 

Robyn Bell: Now you , you have sung with an orchestra before because you were in Carmina Burana. 

Amber Myers: Yes. 

Robyn Bell: Now that was a big choir in the back of the orchestra. Have you ever done anything in the front of the orchestra like this one? 

Amber Myers: No. 

Robyn Bell: Yeah. Fun?. 

Amber Myers: Not at all. This is my first time. I'm excited. I am. 

Robyn Bell: Yeah, 

Amber Myers: that first rehearsal on Monday, I was like, Wow. 

Robyn Bell: Yeah. 

Amber Myers: There's so many people here.

Robyn Bell: It's a powerful group behind you. 

Amber Myers: Yeah. 

Robyn Bell: For certain. All right. And we are where you have about 11 tunes you guys are doing with us. Do you have one that you have particularly been drawn to that you like more than the others? 

Amber Myers: Hmm. I. It would probably be between Abide With Me. 

Robyn Bell: Yeah. 

Amber Myers: And this Little Light of Mine.

Robyn Bell: Oh yeah. Both two good ones. 

Amber Myers: Yes. 

Robyn Bell: Well, they're all good. Really? 

Amber Myers: Yes. 

Robyn Bell: You wake up in the, in the morning and you've got like This Little Light of Mine stuck in your head. Kind of the earworm thing. 

Amber Myers: Yes. 

Robyn Bell: Yeah, me too. 

Amber Myers: All like at different points throughout the day. Yeah, like just randomly.

Robyn Bell: So it's funny you hum that because one of my colleagues, I said, Oh, they're coming in today for a podcast. And they go, Oh, are they gonna sing? And I went, Well, I hadn't thought about it. . 

Maicy Powell: Oh Lord.

Robyn Bell: Oh Lord is right. 

Amber Myers: Get ready. Maicy 

Maicy Powell: not this early, 

Robyn Bell: right? We're not warmed up. I think people will, We don't wanna give it away. People don't have to come to the show to hear this actual singing. 

Amber Myers: Yes, people, 

Robyn Bell: except for you are just humming. But that's. The same. 

Amber Myers: It's just like, 

Robyn Bell: so . So good segue over to you, Maicy. I didn't know this about you until about a week ago, but you also have a connection to the State College of Florida. You were a dual enrolled student here? 

Maicy Powell: I was, my junior year of high school, I attended Booker High School. 

Robyn Bell: Right. 

Maicy Powell: And 

Robyn Bell: the, the VPA program there? 

Maicy Powell: Yes. Yeah. Uh, I was in both music and theatre at different points in times, but 

Robyn Bell: Okay.

Maicy Powell: Um, yeah. Decided to do dual enrollment to cut down on some credits that I needed to take in college and 

Robyn Bell: Right. 

Maicy Powell: Really worked out for me. I graduated early from college, so that Great. Yeah. 

Robyn Bell: How much money do you think that saved you An entire year of tuition? 

Maicy Powell: At least $50,000. 

Robyn Bell: $50,000. Doing, Dual enroll?

Maicy Powell: Yeah. More than that, actually. 

Robyn Bell: That is powerful. 

Maicy Powell: I have a lot of scholarships. 

Robyn Bell: Wow. And so You did your dual enrollment classes here? Mm-hmm. . While you were still at Booker? 

Maicy Powell: Yes. 

Robyn Bell: And then you graduate, Booker, Where did you go next? 

Maicy Powell: I went to Howard University in Washington DC 

Robyn Bell: Oh, that's a trek.

Maicy Powell: Yes it is. I'm not gonna lie, . It was really hard. 

Robyn Bell: Was it hard being away from home? 

Maicy Powell: It was. Very, very hard. I'm very close with my family, and I think being away, that was the hardest part of leaving. . 

Robyn Bell: You did the whole college thing, Lived in the dorms and 

Maicy Powell: Yes. 

Robyn Bell: All of that. 

Maicy Powell: Yeah.

Robyn Bell: Okay. 

Maicy Powell: Well, the pandemic hit Yep. My sophomore slash junior year, and so when I came back, I lived on my own in a, in an apartment. 

Robyn Bell: And what did you major in there? 

Maicy Powell: Business management with a minor in film and television. 

Robyn Bell: So when you went to school at Howard University, you went right in knowing you were gonna do business management and film?

Maicy Powell: I did. I always wanted to major in business. 

Robyn Bell: Okay. 

Maicy Powell: I know a lot of people were like, Well, that's weird. Like, why wouldn't you major music? It's so funny. So many people have told me that. But I think it's important for all creatives to know the business side because I think it, it definitely hurts you if you don't, and so for me, I knew that, you know, one day I might wanna have my own company, I wanna be more in control, and I wanna understand what's actually going on. 

Robyn Bell: Brilliant.

Maicy Powell: Why these decisions are being made. And so I just thought that, Smart choice and all, You know, I have so many business mind people in my family, entrepreneurs. Mm-hmm. , it just seemed like the natural path. So 

Robyn Bell: did you like living in DC? 

Maicy Powell: I did not. , 

Robyn Bell: I'm gonna say my, my father is from that area and he hates it as well, so, yeah.

Maicy Powell: Oh wow.

Robyn Bell: Yeah. Yeah. 

Maicy Powell: It's not, it's so different from Florida. 

Robyn Bell: Right. 

Maicy Powell: And cold. 

Robyn Bell: Cold. Yes. And, and a lot of, did you find there was a lot of this political pressure because you're in that place? Or were you kind of insulated from. . 

Maicy Powell: I feel like I was insulated from that. 

Robyn Bell: Okay, good. 

Maicy Powell: I would say like during the protest for George Floyd and everything, going to an H B C U, that was definitely, 

Robyn Bell: you were, you were there during all that. Cuz I didn't even ask you what years you were there. 

Maicy Powell: Yeah, I believe I was, Yeah, I was there during when, like when all that happens. So, That was like for the black students of that school, it was definitely, um, just things like that weigh very heavy on our community in general. So, 

Robyn Bell: Completely. 

Maicy Powell: Yeah. 

Robyn Bell: I didn't realize that.

Maicy Powell: Yeah. 

Robyn Bell: Now, cuz you were in the VPA program at Booker, so you were doing musicals and you were doing the theatre. So when you went to Howard University, were you involved musically there? 

Maicy Powell: I took jazz for a semester 

Robyn Bell: Like VO jazz. Vocal? 

Maicy Powell: Yeah, Jazz, vocal. And I sang a lot at church. I sing like every week at a church. That was a few minutes up the road. 

Robyn Bell: Good. 

Maicy Powell: And so that really kept me singing, which is great. 

Robyn Bell: Yes, 

Maicy Powell: because prepares me for this. but yeah, it was. I didn't perform as much. I wish I would've done more, but honestly, my schedule was pretty busy doing just other things that I wanted to pursue. So it just, yeah.

Robyn Bell: And then Maicy, I'm wondering, you obviously came back to Sarasota. Mm-hmm. And then how did you get involved with the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe?

Maicy Powell: So I have been with Westcoast. For maybe six years, since 2016. So 

Robyn Bell: while you were still in high school? 

Maicy Powell: Yeah, I was still in high school. 

Robyn Bell: Did you do like their summer camp thing and get involved that way?

Maicy Powell: I did the first year they did Stage of Discovery. That was my first time coming to the theatre and 

Robyn Bell: it's an amazing program. 

Maicy Powell: It was a great experience. 

Robyn Bell: And look what it's done for you. 

Maicy Powell: It's done so much for me. I feel like my confidence has grown a lot. My knowledge of theatre has grown a lot. I didn't, do Theatre prior to that, so it was great just being exposed to Black musicals. Mm-hmm. , Black plays, Black actors, people that I look up to now. Great community,

Robyn Bell: and when you move back here, you start maybe looking for jobs with your business degree.

Maicy Powell: Mm-hmm.

Robyn Bell: and film degree. And would that land you 

Maicy Powell: marketing, , ? 

Robyn Bell: Never enough. Marketers? 

Maicy Powell: Never. But I, I mean, honestly, marketing is, You should know it. I think for, for every profession, even film, I think 

Robyn Bell: we all have to sell ourselves. 

Maicy Powell: Yeah. Mm-hmm. have to learn how to sell yourself. So I think that what I'm learning in their marketing department is beneficial. Very beneficial. 

Robyn Bell: And when you say their marketing department, you work for the Westcoast Black Theatre? 

Maicy Powell: Yeah, I do. Yeah. Yeah. I work under Beth Graves. 

Robyn Bell: Shout out to Beth. 

Maicy Powell: Yes. . 

Robyn Bell: Now, tell us what a day, at, at the Westcoast Black Theatre and the marketing department might look like. What is a goal for you?

Maicy Powell: Well currently I've been working on digital marketing, just kind of prepping for the shows that are going on. Next in the season. Mm-hmm. . So right now I've been recording patron reviews for Guys and Dolls and putting together that video to put out hopefully next week um, and then a lot of archival, things. So like going back five years and just like putting together an Excel spreadsheet on like every single detail, every actor. 

Robyn Bell: Oh, wow. 

Maicy Powell: Head shots, dates of everything. Yeah, it's, well, 

Robyn Bell: massive 

Maicy Powell: detail.

Robyn Bell: Yeah. Very cool. Now you said, just a minute ago, you said putting together a video 

Maicy Powell: mm-hmm.

Robyn Bell: So, because this is kind of more in line with your degree of business and film, so where do you see yourself Maicy in 10 years? What's your goal in life 

Maicy Powell: in 10 years? I am going to, not want to be. I'm going to be a producer. 

Amber Myers: Good for you. 

Yes, girl. 

Robyn Bell: Good for you. That's right. 

Amber Myers: That was great. 

Maicy Powell: Yeah. Working on feature length films, I want to obviously promote more diversity in films. 

Robyn Bell: Mm-hmm. ?

Amber Myers: Yes. 

Maicy Powell: I think it's really just important. I think now more than ever you, you see obviously more people of color and. . you, you see more people like that on screen now, and I think that's wonderful, but I definitely think that there are stereotypical portrayals of us that should be changed, so 

Robyn Bell: I agree. Yep. 

Maicy Powell: Yeah. I, I have done short films like in college and stuff, but I did a. I wanna say last year Playing Through 

Robyn Bell: Oh, yes, yes, 

Maicy Powell: yes. I was in that. I don't know where it is. . I'm sure it's out there, but 

Amber Myers: Oh goodness. 

Robyn Bell: Absolutely.

Maicy Powell: They've been taking that around to like different festivals 

Robyn Bell: about the golfer. 

Maicy Powell: Yes, 

Robyn Bell: yes, 

Maicy Powell: yes. It's a great movie. I, I loved the film. 

Robyn Bell: And you were in it? 

Maicy Powell: I was, I was waitress.

Robyn Bell: I was . But now , you don't wanna be an actress. You want to be on the other side of the camera. Right. You wanna be film or you would do, gosh, either or.

Maicy Powell: I wanna do so much. 

Robyn Bell: Yeah. 

Maicy Powell: It's not just like one thing, 

Robyn Bell: don't limit yourself. 

Maicy Powell: No. 

Robyn Bell: Mm-hmm. .

Maicy Powell: And that's, Yeah. I, I'm, I'm never one to limit myself. I wanna do it all. Acting is definitely in the cards for me. I wanna do more of it. 

Robyn Bell: Yeah. 

Maicy Powell: So, yeah. 

Robyn Bell: Well, and we should say Amber is the soprano in the quartet. Maicy, you're the alto. And I really connect with you because I'm an Alto singer. 

Maicy Powell: Yes. 

Robyn Bell: And I love the harmonies . So going through these rehearsals, and now you've rehearsed with the orchestra as well. Is there a song that you're kind of ging onto? You're like, Ooh, I really dig this one.

Maicy Powell: I love Balm in Gilead. 

Robyn Bell: Yeah,

Maicy Powell: I think it's, the ballads are just beautiful in this show. 

Robyn Bell: They are.

Maicy Powell: But that one, I just feel like it just sends a sense of like, calm over me when I sing it. It's very, very beautiful. The harmony between. Amber and myself. 

Robyn Bell: Yeah. 

Maicy Powell: In the beginning of that song is just, ah, it's beautiful. 

Amber Myers: It is. 

Robyn Bell: Yeah. It's one of my favorites as well. Yeah. And, and Amber, you start that whole tune. 

Amber Myers: I do. . 

Robyn Bell: Yeah. And, uh, it's, it's really, really good. So 

Amber Myers: thank you. 

Robyn Bell: We'll be listening to that now. All total, As I said, we are performing 11 songs together, including this Little Light of Mine when the Saints Go Marching In. Ride on King Jesus. Ain't-A That Good News, which might be my favorite , um, and many, many more. But Amber and Maicy, what does this music mean to you within our theme of the Spirit of America? 

Amber Myers: Wow. That is a great question. 

Robyn Bell: Well, that's what I get paid the big bucks for, 

Amber Myers: and I see it 

Maicy Powell: worth every penny . 

Amber Myers: Wow. Um, I think this music is very important. I wasn't introduced to Negro spirituals, until I was in high school. The music director, Matthew McKinnon, he introduced us to, um, Negro Spirituals and we've sung on the Van Wezel stage, different events, doing negro spirituals. And when I was younger, I didn't really understand what I was singing about, honestly. When we would sing, I had enough awareness to see how people reacted. And I knew it wasn't just because, Oh, they sounded good, or, Oh, look at the little kiddies. They're so cute. It was like a calmness, a stillness, depending on the song, if it was, you know, a ballad, a more somber song, talking about like the things we had to go through in slavery, um, like sun Up to Sundown, ,

Robyn Bell: Alright. 

Amber Myers: Mm-hmm .

Robyn Bell: And even though you didn't know any of this music until in high school, are you saying maybe you immediate. Felt it as a, as a root for you? 

Amber Myers: Yes. Yeah. It was definitely a connection. Mm-hmm. . And it's so interesting how music does that, because you may not understand the history behind it or why it makes you feel what you're feeling, but you just know that you feel something. 

Robyn Bell: Yeah.

Amber Myers: And that's really what you remember even more so than the song itself is that Wow. When they sang that, I, I felt something 

Robyn Bell: totally Maicy. How about you. 

Maicy Powell: I think for me, this music, when people hear it, I want them and hopefully they feel hopeful. I feel like in America, . Mm-hmm. , you should be hopeful cuz you know, there's so many things happening in the world today, but I think this music is, hopefully when people hear it, they will just, Calmed they'll be sent to a place of, joy or happiness. Like Amber said, it's crazy how music you, you may not relate to it. We are seeing a lot of spirituals. You may not even believe in God. Mm-hmm. , but yet I, I do think that there is still a connection and I feel like we all have faith, right? May not be in the same things, but music like, Really connects us. And that's what I want people to focus on when they hear us performing. 

Robyn Bell: Yeah, completely. And I, I mean, everybody will agree slavery was horrible and should have never happened. And it's a, mark on America's, history. But as a, as a musician and a historian, the music that came out of that mm-hmm. , the spirituals that would've, that would not exist. Right. Jazz would not exist. And it, it is the only place I can go in my head. Mm-hmm. that I am so grateful. We have this amazing music to share with the world. And also I am tormented that we had to go through what. We went through as a nation and people 

Maicy Powell: Right, 

Amber Myers: Right. 

Robyn Bell: To get it. It, it's, it's this double side for me that I really struggle with. Mm-hmm. and I am grateful to present this. Spectacular music. Yeah. I mean, it's America's music. 

Amber Myers: . From Great Pain Comes Great beauty. 

Robyn Bell: A hundred percent. 

Maicy Powell: Yeah, 

Robyn Bell: a hundred percent 

Amber Myers: for sure.

Robyn Bell: Let's turn to our guys for this concert Singing Tenor is CJ Melton and laying down the low notes on the bass is, Raleigh Mosley II. So CJ and Raleigh, welcome to the club. 

Raleigh Mosely II: Thank you. 

CJ Melton: Thank you, . 

Robyn Bell: CJ, don't you guys sound so good. Thank you. Cj, you are a graduate of Manatee High School. I have learned, 

CJ Melton: Yes ma'am.

Robyn Bell: And you really, truly have an incredible tenor voice. 

CJ Melton: Thank you.

Robyn Bell: What first prompted you to start singing? 

CJ Melton: well, I was raised in church and I've always wanted to be a part of our worship team. And, my family sings. And, my grandmother, she got me this little mic and I would like sing like a 

Robyn Bell: Mr. Microphone. . Yeah, yeah, yeah. 

CJ Melton: Karaoke. A karaoke and I would like sing with them. Not actually, but sing with them and ever since then I've been singing. 

Robyn Bell: You've been singing, So tell me cuz I know I'm, I'm good friends with your high school, choir director, Mr. Jomisko. 

CJ Melton: Mm-hmm. . 

Robyn Bell: But at some point in time you graduated from there.

CJ Melton: Right. 

Robyn Bell: And you. Began to live, your life and somehow you ended up connected with the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe. Tell us how did that happen? 

CJ Melton: I started with Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe in 2014 in Sheldon Rodin's. Young Artist Showcase. And after that I got casted for my first main stage production, Black Nativity.

Robyn Bell: All right. And how many shows would you say you do with them? 

CJ Melton: , maybe one or two.

Robyn Bell: Okay. One or two. They call you up or you do you audition for shows? 

CJ Melton: Audition. 

Robyn Bell: Okay. And what's your kind of, your favorite type of show to. 

CJ Melton: Um, the church ones, 

Robyn Bell: Yes. 

CJ Melton: Like the gospel ones, 

Robyn Bell: the gospel ones kind of like we're doing with the Pops we reached out to the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe with my vision, what we wanted, and they, as they kind of, I don't wanna say they assigned you, but they said, These will be your singers. Do you get that kind of extra gigs, along with them? . 

CJ Melton: Yes. 

Robyn Bell: So who else have you performed with in the community?

CJ Melton: Well I've done a show for them recently. 10 boys and one girl in Tampa. 

Robyn Bell: Okay. 

CJ Melton: Of Mr. Jacob's family. 

Robyn Bell: Yep. I seeing all of the press about that. Yeah. And you, don't do that full time. You have to have a job. Right? 

CJ Melton: Right. 

Robyn Bell: So tell us, what do you get to do like during the day? 

CJ Melton: Well, Actually always wanted to be a teacher, so I would play school with my cousins until I've became old enough to actually become a teacher. And so now I am a preschool teacher. 

Robyn Bell: Where do you teach 

CJ Melton: at Free to Grow Academy. 

Robyn Bell: Okay. And what grade level do you teach, or what age level do you teach? 

CJ Melton: Um, I teach three year olds. 

Robyn Bell: Oh my goodness. Ankle biters? 

CJ Melton: Yes. 

Robyn Bell: Yeah. . 

CJ Melton: I love them though. 

Robyn Bell: And you had a, a teaching job before that as well, correct?

CJ Melton: Yes. 

Robyn Bell: Where did you teach

CJ Melton: in Sarasota? At Children First. Okay. And I did not start as a teacher, but I started as working in the kitchen and then I started helping in the classrooms there. 

Robyn Bell: Yeah. 

CJ Melton: And then I eventually, Became by teacher,

Robyn Bell: and you and I were talking because here at the State College of Florida, you can get an associate of science degree in early childhood education. You can actually get a bachelor's degree in early childhood education. So we're gonna hook you up maybe with , some coursework, some scholarships. You can sing in our choir. You can be in our musicals. We'll pay for all of it. And then you get a degree and you watch that salary go shoot through the roof. I'll hook you up. There's greater power involved here, I think. I think, I think 

Raleigh Mosely II: I learned so much about CJ just now. 

Robyn Bell: I know Raleigh . It's like you've known him for years. You're like, I had no idea. You teach three year olds, 

Raleigh Mosely II: right? What to be a teacher was a cook. . 

Robyn Bell: When's our next meal? We gonna tell you we're doing 11 songs together. Is there one that you really, are drawn to or enjoy, singing or one that gets stuck in your head? 

CJ Melton: Yes. The Battle of Jericho. 

Robyn Bell: The Battle of Jericho? 

CJ Melton: Yes. 

Robyn Bell: Why do you like that one? 

CJ Melton: The words, the phrasing, the groove.

Robyn Bell: The groove. I was about to say, it's that rhythm. It's that driving. I don't normally sing in my podcast , but if you guys want to, we can open it up for that. 

Raleigh Mosely II: You guys should hear Robyn sing. Tell her to sing. Send it in. 

CJ Melton: Sing, sing, Sing . 

Raleigh Mosely II: Really ask for it guys 

Robyn Bell: people gotta pay for that. I'm not giving that away free.

Raleigh Mosely II: I get that. I get that. I absolutely understand that. . 

Robyn Bell: Well, when we, uh, next perform Battle of Jericho, I will have a smile on my face knowing that that is your favorite tune. Any of this music we're doing? Is it new to you or were you familiar with all of these spirituals? 

CJ Melton: I was familiar. Elijah Rock. 

Robyn Bell: Okay. 

CJ Melton: Yes. 

Robyn Bell: The rest of them all new. 

CJ Melton: Mm-hmm. . 

Robyn Bell: Wow. 

CJ Melton: Yes. 

Robyn Bell: That is amazing. Since you grew up singing in the church and learned how to sing in the church, do you find that this particular show that we're doing with these spirituals, is it sort of rooting you or grounding you? 

CJ Melton: Yes it is. Cause it does remind me of singing in church.

Robyn Bell: Yeah. And what's, what's it like to sing in front of that like 65 piece orchestra blaring away? 

CJ Melton: Um, it's pretty cool. I've never done it before, so, 

Robyn Bell: Yeah, 

CJ Melton: it's great. 

Robyn Bell: Yeah. You guys sounded good at our rehearsal the other night. 

CJ Melton: Thank you.

Robyn Bell: Although, you know, As Raleigh was telling me, I need a monitor. I said, I know what I can't hear. Nothing either. So, Raleigh 

Raleigh Mosely II: Uhhuh, 

Robyn Bell: how are you today? 

Raleigh Mosely II: I'm doing good. How are you? 

Robyn Bell: Good. I have to say throughout our rehearsals together, I have been calling you in my head, the godfather of the quartet. 

Raleigh Mosely II: Really? ? Yes. I actually really like that. 

Robyn Bell: Yeah. Cause I remember like at our first rehearsal when I said, Who is singing? What part You answered, I guess I'm singing the bass on this one, and I, I immediately thought this guy. Can probably do it all because it sounded like you would be able to step in. If I wanted you to sing soprano, you could probably do it. I don't know. 

Raleigh Mosely II: Probably. 

Robyn Bell: So tell me, . So tell us, um, a little bit about yourself. I understand you're not originally from here, 

Raleigh Mosely II: right? I'm originally from Miami, Florida. Yeah. Yeah. Born and raised in Miami, Florida. 

Robyn Bell: All right. 

Raleigh Mosely II: I went to, a junior college. 

Robyn Bell: Which for Miami-Dade College. 

Raleigh Mosely II: Miami Day College. 

Robyn Bell: Sure. Yep. Great school. 

Raleigh Mosely II: And then I transferred to, Yeah, it was good. I had a good time. Then I transferred to UCF and got my musical theatre degree, so 

Robyn Bell: Right. So this is the other thing, I mean, you have like a musical theatre degree. I think you might be the oldest of the bunch. 

Raleigh Mosely II: I, yeah, probably. But we're not gonna throw that out. No, no, we're not. No, I am. 

Robyn Bell: No Raleigh. You're supposed to say no, Robyn, you're the oldest of the bunch

Raleigh Mosely II: Yeah, 

Robyn Bell: I know how that goes. And how did you originally get involved in singing? Was it in your school chorus? 

Raleigh Mosely II: It was probably in church. I grew up in church, Yeah. Too, Singing and. My church is, I would call it the performing arts church of like our era, cuz we had dancers, we had singers, we had actors, We a show play. Yeah, very much so. Yeah. And they would do production all the time. And, 

Robyn Bell: and early on you were sort of pegged as someone that had a little special, extra talent in this? 

Raleigh Mosely II: Absolutely. 

Robyn Bell: Okay. 

Raleigh Mosely II: Absolutely. They would make me the lead and stuff and I'd be like, I, in my mind, everybody could do it, but everybody wasn't doing it. It was me. 

Robyn Bell: Right. . Right. And did you have like lessons, either one of you have like lessons to train your voice and extend your range and this kind of thing? Or was it all very natural? 

Raleigh Mosely II: I did in high school I would, I would call those lessons for sure. Going to chorus every day. 

CJ Melton: High school chorus. 

Robyn Bell: High school course every day. But never like one on one lessons, like private lesson thing, not, Yeah, it's a pretty. 

Raleigh Mosely II: Yeah. 

Robyn Bell: That you have come so far that, you know, our, our musical community kind of touts that as something, You gotta take private lessons. 

Raleigh Mosely II: Yeah. 

Robyn Bell: And when you see someone that has learned organically or in a group setting 

CJ Melton: mm-hmm.

Robyn Bell: and is so talented in it, it, it says a lot about, I mean, really you're, you just have this natural gift for what you're doing. Both of you really. All four of you. 

Raleigh Mosely II: Thank you. 

CJ Melton: Thank you.

Robyn Bell: Yeah. It's been, just a pleasure to work with and to watch. So, Raleigh, what brought you over to this side of. , 

Raleigh Mosely II: my friend. She was telling about, she was always looking for auditions and she was like, There's this. Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe was doing auditions and you could do all these shows. And that was like 2017. And they were doing the show called Soul Man. They were doing a Motown Christmas They were doing In The Heights. 

Robyn Bell: Yep. Oh, In the Heights. Yeah. 

Raleigh Mosely II: Yeah. And I was like, I could do those shows. 

Robyn Bell: and paid 

Raleigh Mosely II: and get paid. Yeah. 

CJ Melton: Mm-hmm. 

Robyn Bell: signed me up. 

Raleigh Mosely II: Yeah. So I came and auditioned and they put, actually put me in the summer show. Okay. This, which would be not even in that season. I didn't even know what it was called. It was, uh, happening. It was called Broadway and Black. 

Robyn Bell: Okay. Yep. 

Raleigh Mosely II: And so I did that one in 2017. The. Then I came back and did In the Heights, and then right after that I did a Motown Christmas and then, There was another show in between, and then I did, Soul Man. So I was there basically that whole season. So, 

Robyn Bell: yeah. And, and then you just permanently relocated from Miami over here? 

Raleigh Mosely II: Kind of. I'm, I'm here a lot. 

Robyn Bell: Okay. 

Raleigh Mosely II: So I don't, I go to Miami to visit. Okay. But I'm usually here performing or in Orlando or just somewhere not Miami performing. 

Robyn Bell: Yeah, you do, you do a lot of performing, but you also have, as we all do, another source of income. What other jobs do you do? 

Raleigh Mosely II: I really. I just started a new job recently to help with Sarasota's cleanup. 

Robyn Bell: Yeah. Well they needed extra people for that, 

Raleigh Mosely II: and they did. So I just, I was like, I can do that during the day since I'm not performing. 

Robyn Bell: Yeah. 

Raleigh Mosely II: Like at during the day. 

Robyn Bell: Well, thank you for that service because it is so needed.

Raleigh Mosely II: Yeah. 

Robyn Bell: And still we're, we're driving around town and there are still people piling up. Oh yeah. You know, debris.

Raleigh Mosely II: Oh yeah. They, they're the people that come to the debris drop off that I am at. Are super grateful. Place that they can bring it. Cause they're like, it's killing our grass and need it out of the road. And I'm like, they're like, Thank you so much for being here. 

Robyn Bell: Anybody give you any tips? 

Raleigh Mosely II: I actually did get a tip the other day. 

Robyn Bell: Did you? 

Raleigh Mosely II: Yes. . I used it to buy Starbucks. 

Robyn Bell: It was, I was about to say, it was like a, a money tip, not a like don't eat yellow snow tip. 

Raleigh Mosely II: Yeah. It was like an actual money tip. And then today somebody brought us a sandwich.

Robyn Bell: Well that's, that's what we call in philanthropy, an in kind donation. 

Raleigh Mosely II: Yeah. And I love it. Keep donating guys. , 

CJ Melton: truly. 

Robyn Bell: So, in this theme of, you know, the Spirit of America, you and I talked briefly, or, or when we talked as a group, you sort of took the lead on it. Tell us, Raleigh, what this music means to you.

Raleigh Mosely II: I love that, you know, in the title Spirit of America, you still. Very clear on the fact that black people are super important in this country's history, and that is what the spirit of America is, 

Robyn Bell: right? 

Raleigh Mosely II: And that's what we're singing and I think that is important to remind people that we are just as much, uh, part of this history as anybody else.

CJ Melton: Mm-hmm. . 

Robyn Bell: Well, okay, let's go a little further. Without slavery, which I talked with, Amber and Maicy. 

Raleigh Mosely II: Mm-hmm. 

Robyn Bell: horrible is total cloud over our entire country. 

Raleigh Mosely II: Mm-hmm. . 

Robyn Bell: But had that never happened, we wouldn't have these spirituals. We wouldn't have rag time, we wouldn't have jazz. We wouldn't have rhythm and blues.

CJ Melton: Mm-hmm. , 

Robyn Bell: we wouldn't have rock and roll. Literally. Our musical gift to the world would not happen without this music that we are performing. 

CJ Melton: Right. 

Raleigh Mosely II: Literally 

Robyn Bell: you know,

Raleigh Mosely II: it wouldn't exist. It, 

Robyn Bell: it would not. 

Raleigh Mosely II: Yeah. 

Robyn Bell: We would all be playing Mozart, Mo still something, right? It's like mm-hmm. . I mean it gave us two and four.

Raleigh Mosely II: Yeah, it did. 

Robyn Bell: Right. And we reversed the beat. 

Raleigh Mosely II: Mm-hmm. 

Robyn Bell: and we all turn on our radio. Taylor Swift just released her big, you know, album. None of that would happen without these spirituals. 

Raleigh Mosely II: Yep. 

Robyn Bell: Starting it all. 

Raleigh Mosely II: Yep. 

Robyn Bell: So it is to me, the roots and the spirit. 

Raleigh Mosely II: Mm-hmm. , 

Robyn Bell: the spirituals, the spirit of 

Raleigh Mosely II: Right. 

Robyn Bell: America.

Raleigh Mosely II: Absolutely. 

Robyn Bell: So, I'm just grateful that the four of you could share that with us and share your talents in that realm and bring it to our audience. And then, it's our annual patriotic veterans concert as well. 

CJ Melton: Okay. 

Robyn Bell: So in addition to those spirituals and anthems that we're gonna be performing, the Pops is also celebrating our veterans at this concert.

Raleigh Mosely II: Mm-hmm. 

Robyn Bell: with selections such as a piece called The Celebration of Taps. And, uh, you know, the, I'm gonna sing. You're getting ready. 

Raleigh Mosely II: Yeah.

Robyn Bell: And this is what the Bugler, uh, plays. When it's lights out Yeah. For the, you know, for the military. Right. And, uh, what we've done, we have our five pop trumpet players, but we've added six more. 

CJ Melton: Okay. 

Robyn Bell: From the Manatee Community Band and from the State College of Florida Symphonic Band. And they are gonna be out in the hall, like surrounding the audience.

CJ Melton: Oh wow. 

Robyn Bell: And the orchestra's gonna play on stage and they're gonna be filling the hall with. It's a basically a kind of a variations on taps. It's really, really moving. And then, we are performing also a piece called Elegy for the USS Arizona. And this was composed to honor the 21 members of the Navy Band who were serving on the USS Arizona on the morning of December 7th, 1941. These guys ranged in age from 19 to 31. And all 21 members of the band perished in the attack on Pearl Harbor. And it's a very moving piece, , which I, I think will speak to a lot, especially our Navy veterans. That'll be in the house. 

CJ Melton: Right. 

Robyn Bell: And then you all will join us for the Armed Forces Salute, where we recognize all the branches of our military. 

Raleigh Mosely II: Mm-hmm. 

Robyn Bell: and those who serve, that our attendance will stand when you guys. United States Air Force and they'll stand up. So Cool. And then of the audience favorite, God Bless the USA. So it's gonna be a really special concert you have people coming to the show? 

Raleigh Mosely II: Yeah. 

CJ Melton: Yes. I have friends. 

Robyn Bell: I don't know about this. Friends. 

Raleigh Mosely II: Yeah, just friends. I know. I gotta send it to you. I haven't sent 

Robyn Bell: it to you. I save, I gotta, I gotta save you some good seats. 

Raleigh Mosely II: Yeah. 

Robyn Bell: You get the friends and family special. 

Raleigh Mosely II: Exactly. And I have friends coming and they wanna come, so, 

Robyn Bell: Okay. Excellent. Like I said, I am. Thrilled that the four of you are able to perform with us. Everybody in the orchestra is raving about the arrangements in the entire show, and I think our audience will feel the same way. You dear Podcast listener can get your tickets to either show that Sunday, November 6th at three o'clock at the Riverview Performing Arts Center. Or Monday, November 7th at 7:30 PM at the SCF Neel Performing Arts Center by going to the Pops orchestra's or by calling our ticketing hotline at 9 4 1 9 2 6 7 6 7 7. Life hack that spells out POPS 76, 77. I came up with that one. We are just about sold out for the Monday night show. Only a few tickets remain, so hurry it up if you wanna come to that performance. So thank you to Amber, Maicy, CJ, and Raleigh for joining me on the podcast today and for sharing their talents with our orchestra and audience members. 

Raleigh Mosely II: Yeah, thank you for having us.

CJ Melton: Thank you.

Robyn Bell: Great. We'll see you at the show. 

Raleigh Mosely II: Excited. It's gonna be a good time. 

CJ Melton: See you there. .