Elijah Johnson is a piano playing student at Eastern Illinois University. After losing his aunt nearly three years ago he found comfort in music, piano music in particular. Although he’d been around the keys his entire life his family wouldn’t allow him to play and instead encouraged him to put his efforts into the drums.
It wasn’t until just a year ago that Eli began playing the piano seriously. Since then his talents haven’t gone unnoticed as he’s received numerous gigs including a team up with Keyanna, another artist on his campus.
Despite the short time he’s been playing, Eli’s ear for music has made him a quick learner and excellent player. He credits himself on having interest in an extensive range of genres. “Music is like food. It’s a buffet and every genre has a different taste.” Eli has no plans to stop playing and looks forward to seeing where the music takes him.
Despite the scarcity of dance studios in her Chicago west side community, Keyana Latimer, better known as KeKe, was enrolled in The Academy of Dance Arts at a young age. There she studied genres including ballet, contemporary, jazz, hip hop, and what would quickly become her favorite: tap.
“I had no idea what I was doing but I just started making rhythms on the concrete floor and I thought, ‘I should stick to this.'”
As her skills sharpened she went on to perform with Mad Rhythms, a professional tap company, where she trained with a host of artists including dancer and eventual mentor Brill Barrett.
Not wanting to neglect her craft after graduating high school, Keyanna performed in talent shows during her freshman year of college. The competitions were saturated with rappers and singers but her tap dancing brought a new dynamic to the campus and quickly gained her notoriety.
Soon her phone was ringing with performance requests. “I’m so grateful when people ask me to do shows…but I’m not the only person on campus who has talent.” With that mindset, she set out to assemble a group of creative students ranging from visual artists to piano players. In no time the group had several gigs and through this assembly Keyanna gained the confidence to share another gift with her audiences, singing.
“When I’m on stage I have the opportunity to express myself. I’m not a very outspoken person, but when I perform I feel free.”