It's said that the cream rises to the top, and a group of contestants were named to the top 20 from nearly 200 acts auditioning for Suburban Chicago's Got Talent, a summerlong contest co-sponsored by the Metropolis Performing Arts Centre, the Arlington Heights Chamber of Commerce, Schaumburg-based law firm Gardi & Haught LTD, Wintrust Bank, College Textbooks and the Daily Herald.
Yet, the cream is about to be skimmed. These 20 contestants go head to head against each other Sunday, July 8, as they fight for a spot in the top 10. All will need to bring their A-games to win over the judges and move on to the next level.
See the finalists performWhere: Metropolis Performing Arts Centre, 111 W. Campbell St., Arlington Heights, (847) 577-2121 or target="_blank">metropolisarts.com
When: Top 20 finalists perform at 7 p.m. Sunday, July 8; top 10 finalists perform at 7 p.m. Sunday, July 22; final five perform at 7 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 5, and at the Taste of Arlington Heights on Saturday, Aug. 11, when the winner and fan favorite will be announced.
Cost: $10 for top 20; $15 for top 10; $20 for top 5; free admission to Taste of Arlington Heights
Vote: Visit dailyherald.com/entlife/talent to see videos of the contestants on Tuesday, July 10, and vote for your favorite
So whom do they have to impress? First, the judges -- Metropolis executive director Charlie Beck, education director Michelle Shaver and music director Micky York, plus guest judge Margo Berzins, director of marketing for Gardi & Haught.
Then there's the audience. Sunday's performances, and the rounds that follow, are open to the public. Tickets are available for the next three rounds held at the Metropolis in Arlington Heights (7 p.m. Sundays on July 8, 22 and Aug. 5).
Finally, there are online voters. The performances on Sunday will be videotaped and posted online Tuesday, July 10, at dailyherald.com/entlife/talent. Daily Herald readers can then vote on a "Fan Favorite." The winner will get a Funjet vacation for two.
It all leads up to the finale, when the top five finalists will perform -- and the winner will be crowned -- at the Taste of Arlington Heights on Aug. 11. The top prize: a chance to audition for NBC-TV's next season of "America's Got Talent."
But in the meantime, check out this guide to the top 20. There are lots of singers of various stylings, a few bands and even two teenage brothers (a comedian and a yo-yo artist) who will duke it out to make it through to the next round.
Inspiration: "I'm always amazed by the talent on the reality TV talent shows. So many young singers are able to pursue their dreams!"
Future hopes: "I am entering Bartlett High School in the fall and will continue performing in musical theater and continue my voice training. Long term, I dream of sharing my voice, perhaps as a recording artist someday."
Band Members: From left: Bradley Bacci, 20, of Prairie View; Zak Sprenger, 20, of Buffalo Grove; Jon "Fluky" Nadel, 20, of Chicago; and Brett Schomen, 21, of Iowa City, Iowa
Occupations: Nadel and Bacci work at a day camp; Schomen and Sprenger work at Sam Ash
About our band: "The way we attack writing a song is different from anyone else. We use varied structures and some sort of out-there chord progressions, but we also know enough about pop to make it palatable."
Preshow rituals: "Jumping jacks, running in place, stretching -- it partially helps to avoid injury since we throw ourselves around a lot."
Hometown: Mount Prospect
Occupation: Commission specialist/subsidiary accountant
Inspirational moment: "My third-grade talent show when I performed Mariah Carey's 'Hero.' From the moment I started singing onstage in front of a crowd, I knew that I wanted to be a singer."
Future hopes: "I plan on using music as an outlet for the rest of my life regardless of the outcome of a career in music."
Favorite performers: Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder, Herbie Hancock
Personal challenges: "Born with Diastrophic Dwarfism, having fused fingers made it a small challenge, but my life is all about adapting and overcoming all obstacles."
Future hopes: "(To) inspire the world that people with disabilities can have great talents and be a positive contributor to society."
Faith and Whiskey
Band members: Singer Camille Eiseman, 41, and guitarist/singer Terry Tank, 50
Hometown: Both of Crystal Lake
Occupations: Stay-at-home mom and designer
Talents: Singing and guitar
Favorite performers:Miranda Lambert, Pistol Annies, Thompson Square for Eiseman; Kenny Chesney for Tank
Inspiration: "My dad took me to meet Tanya Tucker when I was 7. I knew then I wanted to sing," said Eiseman, while Tank cites seeing "The Beatles on 'The Ed Sullivan Show.'"
Agne G (Agne Giedraityte)
Hometown: Downers Grove
Favorite performers: Sarah Brightman, Jackie Evancho and Andrea Bocelli
Future hopes: "I want to sing to people on big stages."
Hutch (Shawn Michael Hutchings)
Hometown: Lake Zurich
Occupation: Music teacher/musician
Favorite performers: "I love everyone from Woody Guthrie to Peter Gabriel, from Springsteen to Beethoven, from Howlin' Wolf to Charlie Parker."
Inspirational moment: "When I was around 7 years old, my dad and stepmother took me to see Sherry Lynn and the Chauffeurs at Joliet Speedway. Lynn took me up onstage in front of the festival crowd and she sang me a song. I believe the seed for my life's calling was planted that day!"
Duo featuring: Shawn Kurian, left, 25, of Wheeling and Sanu John, 25, of Skokie
Occupations: John is a security supervisor and DJ; Kurian is an inside sales rep and event emcee
Inspirational moment: "It wasn't until about two years ago after a party with mutual friends where Sanu began to beat-box for some friends, I randomly jumped in and began to sing different songs over his beats and everyone had so much fun listening to us that we decided to pursue both our talents together," Kurian said. "We have been friends for over 10 years."
Future hopes: "We want to inspire our community and the people around us to pursue what they are passionate about. Ultimately, we would like to be professional entertainers and host and perform events for large crowds and gatherings."
Woody James (James Lowell Woodraska)
Inspirations: "I grew up watching the 'Grand Ole Opry' with my parents and fell in love with the whole idea of performing on a stage."
Future hopes: "I hope to become famous by bringing back music that seems to be lost to my generation. Johnny Cash is still cool and so is Hank Williams Sr., and I try to prove that every time I perform in a bar, a venue, a restaurant and anywhere else I play."
Johnny K (John Koziol)
Hometown: Lake Forest
Occupation: Dental implant manufacturer
Favorite performers: Jimmy Page, Elvis Presley, Brian Ferry
Performance rituals: "I always change my guitar strings before a gig because I'm fearful of breaking my 'G' string in public, drink hot Mighty Leaf tea with honey and wash my hands with WD 40 so my fingers slide."
Future hopes: "Get my original song 'That's Why We Dance,' along with my other originals, signed with a major record label."
Favorite performer: "Whitney Houston. She was an amazing talent and her voice and music has influenced me a lot."
Future hopes: "I hope to get into Julliard or another college with a good performing arts program and major in vocal performance."
Occupation: Student/part-time Berry Yo cashier
Inspirational moment: "My first booked show that I've ever had was at Harry Caray's in Wrigleyville. I only did a six-minute set, but it clicked in my head that I was going to pursue this career."
Performance challenges: "I started doing stand-up comedy when I was 15. So it made it very hard to get into different bars and clubs. Sometimes I could only get in with my parents," Lubecker said. "But I've spent more times in bars already than anyone under the age of 21 in the whole country. I'm not bragging, it's just a fact."
Occupation: Student/part-time Berry Yo cashier
Talent: Yo-yo artistry
Inspiration: World yo-yo champions Tyler Severance and John Narum. Also Darnell Hairston "because of his stage presence and style."
Performance challenges: "(Once) I broke my thumb and had to miss a competition. I practiced with my cast anyway, which was very challenging."
Occupation: Guru of Green Growth
Favorite performers: "If I had to choose, I'd say Homer & Jethro for their combination of superb musicianship and clever song butchery."
Future hopes: "My talent has always been merely a diversion -- something that brings me fun and pleasure, and some occasional dollars. But if the opportunity arises to turn it into a professional career, I'll gladly seize it with both hands."
Hometown: Prospect Heights
Favorite performer: John Mayer
Personal challenges: "In spring 2009, I underwent a major back surgery that caused me to stop playing sports. I was a three-sport athlete my entire life up to this point. Though this was very difficult to overcome, I found a huge comfort through my school's choir program, and realized that music was my true talent."
Hometown: Mount Prospect
Occupation: Engineering student at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Inspiration: "Growing up I attended my siblings' school jazz concerts and I always looked up to the kids playing piano in those groups."
Future hopes: "Keep playing, keep enjoying the music."
Band Members: Singer Ricky Silva, 20, of Glendale Heights, and guitarist Leo D'Ambrosio, 20, of Carol Stream
Occupations: Silva is a server, D'Ambrosio is a Guitar Center sales associate
Inspiration: For Silva: Chris Brown, Will Pugh and Brendon Urie; For D'Ambrosio: John Mayer, Brendon Urie and Andy McKee
Future hopes: "Continue to be persistent with music, continue writing with each other in hopes that our listeners find the same joy we have in writing it," D'Ambrosio said.
Rodriguez Dance Theatre
Artistic director: Lisette Rodriguez
Hometown: Elk Grove Village
Dancers: Jamie Hayden, 31, of Oak Park; Diana Corral, 23, of Woodridge; Brittany Vujasin, 19, of Des Plaines; Amy Echols, 25, of Algonquin; and Justin Dostal, 25, of Des Plaines
Occupations: Teachers, social crisis therapist, intake associate, secretary, college student
Favorite dance company: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
Inspirations: "I started this company to fill the void of modern dance in the Northwest suburbs," Rodriguez said. "All of my dancers and artistic team members are passionate about dance; they all work or study full time. They commit themselves to dance after work because they can't live without dance in their lives."
Band Members: Jake Basala and Calvin Hughes, both 17
Hometown: Both of Lindenhurst
Talent: Making electronic music with a Commodore 64 and Nintendo Game Boys
Personal challenges: "Last summer, Jake had back fusion surgery and needed something to do that did not require much physical activity or lifting of heavy equipment," Hughes said. "During his recovery process, (we) decided to put these two together to create the sounds of Sophmore 64."
Band members: Walter Halliwell, 17, of Batavia; Chris Ford, 17, of Aurora; and Aaron and Josiah Viland, 14 and 17, both of Batavia
Favorite performers: U2, The Cure, Elvis Presley, Etta James
Future hopes: "To reach as many people with our music as possible and to become the best musicians we can."