Tribute to the King of Pop brings thrilling performers to Jacksonville

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If his high-pitched vocals, legendary crotch-grab dance moves or scandalous personal life thrilled you while growing up, you know Michael Jackson is one of the most influential musicians and popular celebrities of our time.

Brent Havens, conductor and creator of the show, and his band have decided to pay tribute to Jackson with the Music of Michael Jackson, a musical masterpiece dedicated to the recently deceased legend of pop.

Havens created six performances paying tribute to memorable bands ranging from Led Zeppelin to the Eagles and has now decided to pay homage to Jackson. Havens’ band will collaborate with the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra, which consists of nearly 60 members.

“The audience usually doesn’t know what to expect, since an orchestra is involved, but it ends up wherever we go there is dancing in the aisles. It’s hard to keep from dancing when it’s Michael Jackson music,” Havens said.

Havens’ band has been traveling around America since its opening in Birmingham, Ala., in June, combining the band members’ talent with each city’s symphony orchestra — creating a memorable and breathtaking Michael Jackson tribute show.

“The symphony is really talented because they have to perform a different show each week,” said Jessica Abbot, a UNF music senior and a public relations intern at the Jacksonville Symphony. “I am really enjoying getting to spend my time here.”

Abbot has been interning since the semester began, and while her day-to-day tasks consist of maintaining the orchestra’s website, she said she enjoys the sounds of the symphony surrounding her, with which she hopes to play one day.

“My dream job would be to play the clarinet in the symphony,” Abbot said. “But working backstage is awesome, too. It’s just a great place to be.”

James Delisco, a Jacksonville native who has been performing on stage for nearly 20 years, will share the spotlight with Felicia Barton, one of the finalists in American Idol season eight, and Kelli Reisen. The three-member band will provide the singing and dancing to over 40 years of music by Jackson including “Thriller,” “The Way You Make Me Feel,” “Billy Jean” and many more.

Delisco has showcased his talents on Broadway several times, including Elton John’s “Aida,” “Smokey Joe’s Café” and “Ragtime.”  Although he landed the part singing tribute to Jackson, he does not think he is next.

“Some people say I sound like him,” Delisco said. “I’m not impersonating him, I’m interpreting his sounds. I’m just paying a tribute to one of the greatest entertainers of our time.”

Although Delisco said his youth was not pleasant, he was determined to pursue his dreams of performing.

“My younger life was traumatic and abusive. I never spoke until I was 5 years old,” Delisco said.

In fact, the first time Delisco cried was when he was 9 years old, after seeing Jackson perform at the Victory tour.

”It opened up a whole new world for me,” Delisco said. “It was a very special moment because I was moved by emotion. When he hit that high note I was so moved, I thought, ‘This is what I’m going to do. I’m going to sing.’ He inspired me.”

With the help and support of his grandmother, Delisco made it to where he is today, and he said he couldn’t be more grateful.

“She was the one who saw my talent,” Delisco said. “She couldn’t afford to take me in, but she did, anyway. She never really got to see me perform, so now she gets to see me do this.”

So far, audiences who have experienced this one-of-a-kind tribute show have been blown away, Brent said.

Check out the show at the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra Oct. 16 at 8 p.m. Tickets start at $15 and are priced according to seating. If students would like to attend more than one performance, they can purchase a Sound Check Card for $25, which allows student access to all Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra classical concerts for the rest of the season. Visit jaxsymphony.org for more information.