Singing on the Hill

Tavia Green

he original venue for the Athena Cage concert was the Corvette Museum Amphitheater, but it was moved to Van Meter Auditorium because of the threat of rain and stormy weather.

Though the weather outside remained tranquil, inside was another story.

Music thundered throughout the auditorium, and lights flashed across the room. The voice of Athena Cage pierced the air, bringing the audience to their feet. The audience clapped, danced and sang along with many popular lyrics.

The second annual “An Evening with Athena Cage” benefit concert was held Saturday to help raise money for the Athena Cage Scholarship, which is awarded to underprivileged students wanting to pursue music at Western.

With the help of students and her special guest, Dionne Warwick, Cage was able to fulfill her dream of helping students attend college.

“Dionne understands how important education is to be successful in life and making you well-rounded,” Cage said.

Carrie Barnett, Western’s director of developing special projects, said about 1,000 tickets were reserved. The show was sold out. Ticket prices ranged from $250 for VIP to $10 general admission.

Taking it back

This year Cage said she not only used her original material, but felt it was necessary to perform a tribute to Motown in her “Motown Medley.”

“It was an appropriate theme, with Dionne being here. Her music is era defining,'” Cage said. “You remember what you were doing when Motown hits were popular. It showed the kids what real music was, being able to understand lyrics.”

Audience members actively participated, singing along with the catchy lyrics.

Warwick also performed her classic hits.

“Motown is an important era to me, my era,” she said. “Students should know all kinds of music. It makes them well-rounded people and teaches them what music really is.”

Warwick said she participated in the concert because she appreciates music and the show was for a good cause.

“You don’t find people willing to love, give and care as much as she does,” Warwick said.

Students from Moss Middle school in Bowling Green wore poodle skirts as they visited the 50s and 60s in a series of dances.

Gail Miller, the mother of Kathrynn Miller who was one of the dancers, said Cage was very kind to let the high school and junior high school students participate.

“It was a very good opportunity for them,” Miller said.

Giving back

Though there was limited space in Van Meter Hall, Cage and Warwick’s passion for the music was shared by the middle, high school and college artists on stage.

Adam Cottongim, 17, a senior at Greenwood High, auditioned and sang back up for Cage. He plans to pursue a career in music production and said the concert was a great opportunity for him.

“Athena is a sweet and genuine person,” Cottongim said. “I speak highly of her to step out and do something different and trust us (students) to do our jobs.”

Western’s orchestra also accompanied Cage.

Greensburg sophomore Jordan Dial, a french hornist in Western’s band, said the student participation in the concert was a “great idea.”

“It’s great somebody of her caliber is helping out,” he said. “More alumni should do it.”

Dial said Cage’s cause to support up and coming musicians who want to pursue an education is beneficial.

“Music helped me educationally and people who work hard at music, work hard at everything,” Dial said. “Music is everything. There’s so many aspects you carry on through life.”

People from all over the community attended the show. But students, faculty and administrators also attended to support the cause.

“She’s my favorite entertainer, and I love her to death,” President Gary Ransdell said. “The fact that she wants to keep ties with Bowling Green is amazing.”

The amount of this years proceeds is still being calculated, according to Tom Hiles, vice president of institutional development.

But, at the end of the night, Ransdell announced that the concert last year had raised $60,000. The concert raised $10,000 and the state matched the money by $50,000.

Cage agreed to give five concerts each year, raising a total of $50,000 for the scholarships. This is her second concert.

“It goes back to when I was in the same position and not being able to afford a college education,” Cage said. “All my grants and loans I took out helped me and it feels good inside to help someone else.”

Warwick put the purpose for the occasion into perspective in a message to the audience.

“My grandfather told me as you climb the ladder remember you have an arm to reach back and pull someone up,” Warwick said. “The more you give the more you receive.”

Thinking Back

Cage, a Western alumna, has been singing professionally for 12 years.

She once walked the hills of Western as a chemistry major desiring a career in forensics.

She said sharing her relentless passion for music with students was an incredible experience. She said she couldn’t imagine her life without music and encourages students to pursue their dreams.

“If you know that that’s what brings joy to your life, I can’t imagine how you can give up,” Cage said. “You must persevere.”

The Russellville native is working on opening a recording studio to support children in Bowling Green with a love for music, and also to record her own music. Cage said the project planning is under way.

Though Cage’s popularity has grown since her two smash hits, “Nobody” and “Twisted” with Keith Sweat, and her multi-platinum song, “All or Nothing,” from the Save the Last Dance soundtrack, she said that popularity isn’t what’s important to her.

“It’s about touching life and helping people get through,” Cage said. “Music is soothing, and to hear them say that about my music is more than fame.”

Coming Back

At the end of the show, a scholarship was presented to Shakara Wynn, a member of the Delafield Community Center in Bowling Green. Veterans, police officers and firefighters and their families were also honored.

Cage and Warwick left the stage with tears in their eyes.

Cage said she plans to do three more concerts, which are sponsored mainly by South Central Bank.

Hiles said no plans have been made for future concerts.

“It was good feedback we received and we appreciate Athena’s willingness to support us,” Hiles said.

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Reach Tavia Green at [email protected]