Flagler County, FL – Waiting patiently in the lobby until the fans and family had taken photos after the show, Flagler Palm Coast High School senior Molly Maresca stepped forward with Jaynisi Guzman to get a picture. After all, it’s not every day a star returns to their home stage, and with big dreams, Maresca knows one day it will be her.

“This is exciting because since I am student here looking to pursue a career in the arts. Seeing someone who has been successful in the arts that came from the same place I have, it’s just really inspiring,” said Maresca.

Molly Maresca and Jaynisi Guzman pose with The American Sirens after their show at the Flagler Auditorium on Friday, December 17, 2021.

Watching Flagler Palm Coast High School graduate Alejandra Martinez perform as part of The American Sirens, it bolstered the aspiring performer’s confidence, while adding a big boost of Christmas spirit to the evening.

“It makes me believe I can do great things, make music and make it into a career like these ladies do,” she said. “I watched the second half and they’re so good, so cute and they brought so much Christmas joy. I haven’t really been feeling it this season but they definitely sparked a light in me tonight.”

Arts Inspire Everyone

Maresca wasn’t the only one inspired by the performers’ stop in Flagler County.

Arriving early, members of Martinez’ family were on hand to hear her sing, including her 93-year old grandfather and 90-year old grandmother, Maria Cerulo.

Grandmother Maria Cerulo, Alejandra Martinez & The American Sirens, Alana Fitzgerald, Amelia Fulmer, Mary Beale and Grace Martinez.

“It’s so exciting, especially for my parents,” said Grace Martinez, who has watched her daughter blossom on stage since the age of six.

“They see Ali every time she performs. They try to follow her but for a few years they didn’t see her,” she said. “It’s just like a big night for us.”

Retired educators Alana Fitzgerald and Mary Beale arrived early to mingle, spending time with Martinez’ mother Grace before the show and reminiscing.

“She was amazingly talented, the kind of person that gathered people around her and they did all kinds of stuff, won all kinds of awards in theater,” recalled Fitzgerald.

Beale says it’s a combination of factors that have provided a solid foundation for students of the arts like Martinez, in Flagler County.

“She’s very talented, and like many of our students, has gone on to do professional theater, professional performance,” said Beale. “I think for one thing, they really have opportunities for leadership from a very early age, and the administrations have been supportive of the arts, which is really important.”

As the lights in the auditorium dimmed, in the booth, technical director Jack Neiberlein, made sure all was ready on his end. He’s known Martinez since he first started with the Flagler Auditorium, 22 years ago.

“My first year she was Audrey in the production of ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ and she was fantastic just like she is now,” he said proudly. “We’re glad that she’s coming back and happy to have this homecoming event for her.”

Thanking patrons for supporting the arts, Flagler Schools superintendent Cathy Mittelstadt was on hand to welcome guests to the Flagler Auditorium’s holiday homecoming while noting the value of arts programming in the cultivation of student talent.

“How exciting for all of us to be here tonight to support that true mission and participate in this excitement,” said Mittelstadt.

Instant Fans

Those who didn’t know Martinez or the trio before the show came away with an appreciation for their talent and dynamic stage presence.

“We came to see The American Sirens because we love the vintage sound of The Andrews Sisters and we were intrigued by the fact that one of the performers was a graduate of Flagler Palm Coast High School,” said Kathy Reichard-Elvasky before making her way to her seat near the stage.

A costume change during intermission took the trio from sultry glamourous to holiday festive as they entertained their way through a songbook of holiday hits.

Robert & Sarah Ulis

“They were great, and I loved their dresses. They sang perfectly in harmony, that is so hard to do in that old fashioned way and yet they made it modern. We really enjoyed it,” said Flagler Auditorium governing board member Sarah Ulis.

Watching and listening from various vantage points throughout the performing arts center, as a former music teacher, Flagler Auditorium director Amelia Fulmer picked up on just how in tune the trio were during their performance.

“They just have amazing, really connected harmonies that you can’t tell one voice from the other,” said Fulmer. “That’s how good they are.”

An arts in education advocate, Fulmer says it’s a testament to the resources available for students as they make their way through the programs, that have helped provide a launch pad for success.

“We’re excited because Alejandra Martinez is here. She started in her first musical in elementary school, went to middle school at Buddy Taylor Middle School and sang and danced there, and came here. She was in the dance program here and she was also in the chorus. She was in ‘Little Shop of Horrors’, Audrey in the play,” she said.

Martinez went on to find success as a member of The American Sirens, while the play’s other lead, Andrew Sotomayor is another Flagler Schools’ arts in education success story.

“So many of the students in that play went into the arts,” shared Fulmer. “The lead was played by Andrew Sotomayor who is the music director of the Broadway show ‘Tootsie’ that’s traveling the United States right now.”

Returning home, under the spotlight, it was a sentimental evening for Martinez as she addressed the audience, as homecomings often are.

“I did all of my performances, on this stage, right here, growing up,” said Martinez with emotion. “We moved here to Palm Coast when I was 10 years old, so I grew up here, in Palm Coast, went to high school right here, had all of my performances, all my dance performances, and all of my recitals and everything. It’s such a special night and I’m so, so happy to be here.”

Family – The American Sirens

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