Andy Gazak remembers watching a ton of variety shows growing up - programs that consisted of singers, dancers and stand-up comedians all sharing the same stage. He believes the mix-and-match entertainment format remains a valuable tool, yet one that goes unused.
"If you look around, our society still craves variety," Gazak said. "That type of show still works today. It's just packaged differently. Maybe you don't see the variety shows as frequently, but they are out there."
Gazak speaks from experience.
In 2005, the 57-year-old Concord resident founded Community Impact Productions, a Christian-based, nonprofit organization that encourages Cabarrus County residents to participate in semi-annual variety shows and exercise their natural talents.
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To date, CIP has staged four original productions, the most recent of which, titled "An Evening of Joy," drew near-capacity crowds to The Vintage Motor Club in Concord on Feb. 13.
"The show was very well-received," said Gazak. "We even had a couple of standing ovations."
Seven different acts took the stage at Vintage, performing songs and telling jokes to entertain the masses.
"We had stand-up comedy, a dance group, an R&B solo artist, two instrumentalists ... and our choir, The CIP Singers," Gazak said.
Participants paid a $15 entrance fee. Gazak also collected "love offerings" from performers and attendees.
The shows, he says, serve two purposes. They help raise funds to support performing arts in Cabarrus County.
"Everybody is wired in a certain way to do certain things in life, be it a doctor, a truck driver or whatever," Gazak said. "And there are those out there who are wired to be performers, to either play an instrument, dance, sing or act. There are not a lot of opportunities for them to express themselves (in Cabarrus County). I hope this helps them a little bit."
Additionally, the CIP variety shows raise contributions and awareness for local charities and food banks.
Attendees to the 90-minute "Evening of Joy" program were asked to bring nonperishable food items for CIP's partners at Cooperative Christian Ministry, a nonprofit coalition of seven Concord-based churches that assists Cabarrus County residents coping with poverty, hunger, homelessness and other forms of crisis.
Gazak estimates that CIP raised enough money at "Evening of Joy" to get "a little bit above" the break-even point.
But Gazak doesn't measure success strictly in a financial sense.
"We reached our goals (for the evening) in that we presented an opportunity for artists to perform, and we collected nonperishable food items for Cooperative Christian Ministry," he said.
CIP's goals don't end there.
Gazak has a list of items he'd like to see his organization accomplish over the next five years. He dreams of increasing the number of annual shows. He's also entertaining staging different types of programs and has begun exploring a partnership with Habitat for Humanity so that proceeds from a single concert could help construct a home for a needy family.
Gazak hopes to one day construct a performing arts center in Cabarrus County that can house CIP's productions and eventually expand to accommodate the community's artistic needs.
Ultimately, he wants to expand CIP's reach beyond Cabarrus County.
"These are lofty goals, I know. And I have no clue as to how all of this is going to come together," Gazak says. "But you have to start somewhere with vision, ideas and goals and go after those."
In the meantime, he's moving on to CIP's next event: A captain's choice golf tournament scheduled for Saturday, May 8, at Rocky River Golf Club in Concord. Proceeds will benefit CCM and support Cabarrus County performers.
Correction: Due to incorrect information provided to the Cabarrus News, Carrie Moore was misidentified in a photo caption that accompanied a March 3 story about Hospice & Palliative Care of Cabarrus County's Interlude Choir.