My Friday Five: A Final Nash Next Update & Bringing Back Memories

Photo: Chris White
1) Carolina Football

This is the first time in Lord knows when - a.k.a. not in my lifetime - that both the Carolina Football and Basketball teams are ranked in the Top 10. Football is ranked 10th in the College Football Playoff rankings while basketball is ranked 9th in the Coaches and AP Polls. The gridiron Heels have a huge opportunity against No.1-ranked Clemson in the ACC Championship Game in Charlotte on Saturday. The Tigers are only a slight favorite over the Heels, according to ESPN, and I believe that Carolina could very well pull the upset. It'll definitely be a tall task, there's no question about that.

Now, I got into this a little bit last week, but I'll go through the scenarios for the Heels depending on if the team wins or loses on Saturday. If Carolina wins, there should be no debate, in my mind, that either a playoff berth or the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl is likely. Sure, the Heels haven't had the toughest schedule, but scheduling two FCS foes wasn't originally planned. If Carolina Loses, the mostly likely spot would be the Russell Athletic Bowl. Many of the sports media outlets have been sticking with this bowl for several weeks now. I can't imagine any lower bowl than this for the Heels. One thing that will most definitely work in Carolina's favor is the all the pressure put on Clemson. It's simple for the Tigers: win and you're in. The Heels are basically playing with house money. There will not be much pressure on Carolina to win and I hope the team will just enjoy every minute of playing for an ACC title and stay focused on the task at hand.

2) Fun Times at the Carolina Basketball Game

On to Carolina Basketball. After a 5-1 start, the Heels got star guard Marcus Paige back from injury just in time to play No. 2 Maryland in Chapel Hill on Tuesday. I went to the game with a buddy of mine and we had a blast. Carolina played its best game of the season and won 89-81 over the Terps. Paige just makes everyone around him play better and that was evident Tuesday night. Next up is an always tough, currently undefeated, Davidson squad on Sunday in Chapel Hill.

3) A Final Nash Next Update

Well, after months of competition, tireless efforts to spread the word and get votes, the Nash Next contest finally came to a close Thursday night. The finale took place in Nashville, Tenn. and featured the Top 10 finalists and, after the two-hour shindig, a winner was crowned. As I'm sure you know by now, my friend Tyler Barham was a finalist in the contest and placed at or near the top of the leaderboard for the majority of it. Unfortunately - and to the shock of many of his fans, including myself - Barham did not win. When I learned of the news, I had to pick my mouth up off the floor in utter disbelief.

As I typed out the first draft of this, I was going to write about grievances I had with how the Nash Next contest operated. But, you know what? I'll just keep all that to myself and only congratulate Tyler Barham. This has been a long contest and a ton of work has gone into it both on Barham and his team's part as well as his fans, friends and family. I'm truly blessed to be able to support this talented guy, not only as an artist, but as a friend. Barham has already gained much notoriety and new fans during the contest - including T-Mobile CEO John Legere - which is awesome! This is just the beginning.

Tyler, if you're reading this, I'm proud of ya man!

4) Living Christmas Tree

It's that time of year, again, for the Living Christmas Tree at my church. It's hard to believe that this is my 10th year playing in the Tree. The first show was Thursday night and we played in front of a capacity crowd. I expect much of the same for the remaining shows. We're now halfway through as I'm writing this and I think this is one of the best Tree productions we've done in the 10 years I've been a member of the orchestra. As always, six shows in four days call for a lot of work and stamina but it's a heck of a lot of fun to participate in it!

5) The Wiz Live Brought Some Memories Back

From one production to another, NBC developed and produced yet another live musical. It was The Wiz this go 'round, a revival of the classic 1975 Broadway hit that won seven Tony Awards including Best Musical. I wasn't sure how it would turn out since I'm a huge fan of the original as well as the film version starring Diana Ross and Michael Jackson. I was pleasantly surprised. The Wiz Live was spectacular! Every minute of the show's near three-hour runtime was enjoyable to watch. The cast was superb - especially Shanice Williams who played Dorothy - and the show stuck pretty much to the original, with some modernizations like the use of an iPad by Addapearle in one scene and the crew making the Emerald City very futuristic in design. It was one of the most brilliant shows I've seen in quite some time.

Watching The Wiz Live brought back some memories of my senior year in high school when I was a member of the pit orchestra for my school's production of the musical. This was my first experience playing Broadway music and I've been hooked on it ever since. And, let me tell ya, music for The Wiz is no piece of cake to play either. It pushed me as a young musician but I enjoyed performing it. In fact, I still have some of the sheet music laying around somewhere at my house!

Oh, and I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the performance of one of my all time favorite Broadway tunes - "Home" - by Williams in the live version. All I can say is: wow! Just watch it in the video below...


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