Story by Stephanie Hall | Contributing Writer
Photos by Ethan Pickering | Lifestyles Editor
Talented students at Middle Tennessee State University showed off their culture and abilities at the Rep Your Roots talent show on Sept. 16, 2021. Located outside the Student Union, students had a fun-filled evening watching the acts.
Chris Rochelle, an agent for the Veteran Center at MTSU, was helping work attendance at the show.
“Every year we throw this event so people can express where they’re from or express their culture or background,” Rochelle said.
The event is hosted by the MTSU Intercultural and Diversity Affairs office.
“They want students to know that they give them a chance, and a venue to say, ‘Hey, I would like to perform, I would like to show you who I am,’ because you may never know that some people are singers or dancers,” Rochelle said regarding the goals of the Diversity Affairs office.
The Diversity Affairs office works all year to put on Rep Your Roots.
“From the time this one ends, the next one starts. Even though it’s a year out, we have to have that after-action review to say what can we do better?” Rochelle said.
Dozens of different nationalities were represented through music and dance, student performer Belinda Laureano even demonstrated several dances in one act seamlessly.
“The last time I did a talent show was when I was in the eighth grade. I’m going to be dancing a mixture of cultural dances for the place that I come from. People have been asking me where I come from. And I’m just like, instead of telling you, I guess I should just show you instead,” Laureano said.
Rep Your Roots also allowed some students to step out of their comfort zone.
“I really want to make music, and this is just another way for me to get myself out there and get over my stage fright because I have it really bad,” student performer Taylor Mills said.
The night was full of covers, dance performances, and original music. Students such as rapper Kelvis Burse shared their original songs with the crowd.
Burse, who goes by KDestiny, shared his song “LUCARIO” and got the crowd hyped up.
“Usually whenever I write, I try to have meaning behind my lyrics, but LUCARIO was one that I was just in the studio. I started writing to a beat. I felt it, and I just thought ‘this one was going to get them jumping.’ So, I made the track and as you can see the energy, I made that one for fun,” Burse said.
Burse has more music coming out as well, with a new song called “I’m Alright” under the name KDestiny. It came out on September 17 on Apple Music, Spotify, and Youtube.
Nathaniel Gill, another independent student artist under the name Rapid Rocket, played guitar and rapped an original song. He is a Spanish major but has a minor in the recording industry.
Rep Your Roots had two judges with music industry backgrounds judging all the acts: Thalia Ewing, also known as Muziqueen of Nashville Is Not Just Country Music, and Shalom Miller of Voice Box of Power Move Management.
With an impressive line-up of judges, it’s reasonable to assume that many students would want to get advice from these experts. Ewing, who goes by Muziqueen, offered some to those who want to get into the music industry.
“(I would) tell them to study, study, study. Become a master of your craft and always persevere. And don’t give up” said Muziqueen.
The winners of the night were Makayla Collins and Shawn Gardener. They performed Rhianna’s “Love on the Brain”, with Collins on vocals and Gardener on the keys. They had an incredible performance that impressed both the audience and the judges.
“Well, we are musicians,” Makayla Collins said. “We like to do this for fun. So, we thought it’d be a good idea to show everybody what we can do.”
They are making their own music as well.
“We’re bedroom producers, everything is done at home. So, when we came here, we were like, ‘We got to show our talents, you know, rep your roots,” Shawn Gardener said.
Rep Your Roots was an evening stocked with incredible acts and a great lineup of judges. It was also a fascinating way for students to get out and enjoy a Thursday evening while also demonstrating the level of diversity that MTSU has to offer.