Moonlighting: Students by day, entertainers by night

Tanya Marsh

Tanya Marsh

You can sit by the sidelines and watch events unfold. Or you can get right in the thick of it.

Jumping into the action is a lifestyle that appeals to a number of SDSU students, and they’re doing it in a number of ways. Karaoke is one of the most popular.

Jeff Hanson, a karaoke DJ for TCL Entertainment, runs weekly karaoke nights at Prairie Lanes bowling alley on Wednesday nights.

“I see a lot of college kids out there at the bowling alley,” he says. “The students like it because they get to get involved. Get to laugh at their buddies. It’s more involved than sitting there watching a band.”

Which is one reason Jordyn Nolz, a communication studies and theatre senior, likes to belt out the tunes.

“I like singing and I like getting crowds going … I love attention,” she says.

Seeking this attention, Nolz says she heads out for karaoke nights one to two times a week during the school year, and about three or four times a week in the summertime.

Senior Christina Wagner heads to the bowling alley most Wednesdays to sing karaoke, and says she enjoys the low-pressure fun.

“I like karaoke because nobody really cares if you’re good or if you’re not,” she says. “Everybody’s just there to have a good time. At any karaoke bar, nobody’s going to get after anybody.”

Wagner, an animal science major, says the bowling alley is a fun scene as a change from the downtown bars.

Junior Alejandra Aragon gets weekly kicks from karaoke, too, often singing at the bowling alley.

“It gives you the opportunity to not really care what you’re doing – just having fun,” she says.

Aragon, a sociology and Spanish major, says she normally likes singing with friends.

“We just enjoy spending time together hanging out, making fools of ourselves.”

Aragon says she considers the night a success “when people say I didn’t sound awful.”

After several high compliments, Nolz’s standards are a little higher.

“One night there was a whole crowd of guys from a dairy convention that absolutely loved me. They were giving the DJ five bucks to let me sing again sooner,” she says.

Another time, an admirer gave her $5 to compliment her on a song well sung, she says.

But the real money in karaoke isn’t in tips. Dakota Karaoke is currently running a karaoke competition that will culminate in a $3,000 first prize, $1,500 second prize and $750 third prize.

Nolz says she’s qualified to participate in the competition’s finals.

Garner Hansen, owner of Dakota Karaoke and Main Street Pub, explained that would-be singing stars can qualify for the April 2 finals by being voted one of the top two singers during a Dakota Karaoke night at one of a number of regional bars.

Hansen says top singers are selected by a panel of judges who score karaoke stars on voice quality, sense of rhythm, pitch, diction and presentation.

Whether there was a competition for the big bucks or not, though, Nolz says she’d still be singing karaoke, though her aspirations don’t go much beyond a few nights of fun at the bars.

“I wouldn’t mind having a band, singing for a band,” she says, laughing as if she’s never considered it before. “It’d be fun.”

But others do consider singing more than entertainment. Junior Micah Wetzel has fallen into a love affair with his guitar that is already starting to alter his life plans.

Wetzel began his career at SDSU as a wildlife and fisheries major, but started playing guitar shortly thereafter, which prompted him to switch to a business economics degree.

“I really want to pursue it as a career,” he says, explaining plans of managing a music store and playing gigs nights and weekends.

He has a head start on the gig-playing end of it: this week he played shows at Skinners, Mad Jack’s and Main Street Pub.

“This month I had eight (shows) but that was kind of lucky,” Wetzel says. “Usually during the school year I have about three or four gigs a month, and in the summer more around 10.”

The Rochester, Minn., native says he plays his one-man-and-guitar gigs in Brookings, Sioux Falls and Rochester locations, picking up between $50 and $100 a pop.

In addition, Wetzel has entered his act in SDSU events such as open mic night and Cavorts.

He’ll be playing this Friday’s open mic night, though he hasn’t decided which song will be the key to his success yet.

“I’m either going to do one of my own or a Dave Matthews Band #41 cover,” he says.

When the decision is made and the final chord strummed, Wetzel hopes to hear applause from the audience.

“My favorite part is the applause. That and being able to express my feelings and emotions with my music,” he says.

He also has a passion for his music that makes playing it its own reward.

“I practice an hour to three hours every day,” he says. “It’s been a really long time since I’ve gone a day without playing.”

Wetzel’s guitar love even affects his downtime.

“I still go out and stuff, but I usually don’t like to go over night places or travel because I don’t like to miss playing,” he says.

Of course, music isn’t the only performance art that gets students involved. There’s stand up comedy, poetry reading and even spectator boxing.

Fight night offers the opportunity for students to be in the spotlight, no singing required.

Ag systems technology sophomore Josh Blindert went to watch Thursday’s fights, but says he participated this fall.

Though he only got to box one round and lost to that fighter, who went on to claim second place, Blindert says the fight was a good time.

“It was pretty fun. Just getting a bunch of people around and having them watch and get me pumped up,” he says. “I knew a lot of people were watching. They came to watch me fight.”

Although he had to lose five pounds in order to qualify for the lightweight class and pay a $10 entry fee, Blindert says he enjoyed the experience.

“It was cool just to say I did it,” he says.

Just saying that you did it – whether singing karaoke, playing guitar, or throwing punches – means students are loving living an adventurous life.

#1.885267:796976787.jpg:Micah.jpg:MIcah Wetzel plays a number number of shows in Brookings, Rochester and Sioux Falls. One of his songs can also be heard on KSDJ.:#1.885266:3070641637.jpg:juicecover, mike copy.jpg::#1.885265:2786770245.jpg:fightnight, Mike.jpg:Chad Haselhorst takes a punch from Brian Manafty during Fight Night. Although he´s bleeding below, Manafty won the fight:#1.885264:3108728979.jpg:1KarokeAa.jpg:Christina Wagner belts out “Jose Cuervo,” one of her favorite tunes to sing when she goes out for karaoke night. Wagner says she typically heads to Prairie Lanes for karaoke night about once a week.: