Local Talents Dream Of Going "National"

Amanda Perko and As 1 give 100 percent in hopes of becoming 'household names'

By LESLIE GRAY STREETER Dispatch/Sunday News

Amanda Perko and As 1 aren't national household names-yet. But the two acts, both made up of performers younger then 20, have certainly amassed a following in Central Pennsylvania.

"At Hershey, I got recognized at an *N SYNC concert," said Nathan Gumke, 16, a member of York-based vocal group As 1. "I was walking around and someone came up to me and said 'Are you in that group As 1?' That was crazy."

Both As 1 and Perko, a 19-year-old 2001 York Suburban graduate now studying at Boston's Berklee College of Music, have been part of the local entertainment scene for the past few years.

And both acts, which are performing in the area this weekend, have made some significant changes that they hope will make that "national household name" thing come even faster.

Starting with baby steps:
"I think things are going pretty well. We're taking baby steps with everything," said Perko, who will be performing at the area Borders stores in support of her second CD, "The Woman This Girl Is Going To Be."

"I think I still have as good a shot as anyone else. Everybody has talent in this world, and it depends on how much you want it. In the category of wanting it, I'm up there at the top of the list."

When Perko began performing publicly while still in high school, her style was mostly pop, in the style of Britney Spears and Mandy Moore. But, as she and her voice matured, the singer has now turned to country, she said.

"I guess I have that twang in my voice," She said. "I wasn't too into it in the begining, but it kinda grows on you after awhile. I was thinking about this the other day, that my image was in the teen girl-pop category, which doesn't have the best reputation now. What I'm doing now is different. You don't have to have on a certain outfit. People are just there for the music, and I am too."

Jerry Duncan, Perko's producer, said the singer has blossomed in confidence and in skill in the time he has worked with her. Recently, the two met with music industry professionals in Nashville about her future, and came back positive that she's going in the right direction, he said.

"There are some people who are born to be outspoken and gregaritous, the life of the party, and some who have to work harder at being comfortable with that, " he said. "She's a work in progress. She's more comfortable performing now, and she has worked hard to get the audiences to respond to her."

Perko said she's been working harder-at everything.

"Some people may call me stubborn. I prefer to call it focused," She said. "I would like to be on a stage with alot of people there for me, appreciating me for my music. "That would be just fine with me."

Appreciating As 1:
The six As 1 members also admit that they're fine with the concept of having an appreciative, receptive audience.

"We'd like to be famous," said Drew Ransom, 15, a sophomore at Kennard Dale High School and one of the newer members of the group.

Like Perko, As 1 started performing in the teen-pop heyday of the late 1990s, when Spears, *N SYNC, and the Backstreet Boys reigned supreme.

Now the group which consists of Drew, Nathan and bandmates Gil Figueroa, 19, Leslie Seifarth, Katie Robinette and Michelle Panzer, all 18, is moving into a more R&B groove. They are taking that groove to Kennard Dale high school for a friday night benefit concert.

"It's been good with the transition (of popular music) because there's more of the R&B stuff on the radio then before," said Holly Gumke, the group's manager and Nathan's mother.

"You look on the charts, and it's all R&B," said Robinette. "That' stuff's much more fun to listen to and sing. And we want to be more R&B. We don't want that bubblegum image."

She, Nathan and Panzer are all orginal members of As 1, which was formed two years ago after Gumke staged a series of auditions at the Gumke home, which serves as the group's rehearsal space and all-around hang out.

Tighter group:
A series of recent departures led to the addition of Drew, who the group met through friends, and to more aditions, which yielded Seifarth and Figueroa, Gumke said. The result is a tighter group, both musically and personally, the members said.

"It didn't seem that drastic at first, but you look back, and it is," Robinette said. "We've really taken things into our own hands, and we have more responsibility."

Most of the group's early orginal songs were written by Gumke. Now, their song writting team includes Figueroa, who came armed with guitar skills and orginal compositions, including a ballad called "If Only."

The members of As 1 said they also share more of the choregraphy decisions, which used to go mostly to one of the former members. However, some of their new moves are the brainchild of award-winning local choreographer Lenon Peachlum, whom the musicians met at a dance class he conducted at the YWCA.

"I used to come to (group) pratice, exhausted from track pratice," Drew said of Peachlum's energetic choreography. "This is more tiring. To have the endurance to dance you have to work-out a lot."

He and the other members of As 1 said they're willing to endure all of that to make the group the best it can be.

"This is like the debut of the new As 1," Robinette said. "People expect a lot from us, I think, and we don't want to let them down."

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