The guest judge for the Top 15 round of Suburban Chicago's Got Talent has a vested interest in who wins the summer-long competition.
That's because the guest judge for Sunday's show is Ron Onesti, president and CEO of Onesti Entertainment Corporation, which runs the Arcada Theatre in St. Charles and the outdoor Rock & Roll Concert Series at Festival Park in Elgin. Onesti will deal directly with the SCGT winner since part of the new grand prize for 2014 is an Arcada performance this upcoming season as an opening act for a major headliner.
Suburban Chicago's Got Talent Top 15Location: Prairie Center for the Arts, 201 Schaumburg Court, Schaumburg, (847) 895-3600, prairiecenter.org or dailyherald.com/events
Showtime: 7 p.m. Sunday, July 13
Host: Rob Pileckis, Production Supervisor at the Prairie Center for the Arts in Schaumburg
Beth Waller, Cultural Arts Supervisor for the Schaumburg Park District
John Flamini, Chairman of the Cultural Commission, Village of Schaumburg
Barbara Vitello, Daily Herald staff writer
Ron Onesti, president and CEO of Onesti Entertainment Corporation, which owns the Arcada Theatre in St. Charles
• Top 10 show at 7 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 3, at the Prairie Center
• Top 10 performance at Taste of Arlington Heights on Saturday, Aug. 9 (exact time TBA)
"To truly be an entertainer, you've really got to give from deep inside," said Onesti, expressing what he's hoping to see in the contestants for SCGT, which is co-sponsored by the Daily Herald, the Arlington Heights Chamber of Commerce and the Prairie Center for the Arts in Schaumburg. "If someone's got a great voice, that's OK, but we've got thousands of those. But if you've got somebody out there touching the audience with the performance -- that's a true rock star."
In terms of being a judge and offering feedback to contestants, Onesti says he won't be a villain.
"I'm no Simon Cowell. I'm the good guy," Onesti said, referring to the often-scathing British judge formerly of "American Idol" and "The X Factor." "I will always focus on the positive. I might give a tip or two, but I'm not the guy who says, 'Man, you're off key.' I'm going to say, 'You were on key most of the time.'"
The Arcada opening act performance is just part of the "STARter Kit" grand prize for the contest's winner. The package also features a professional concert-style photo shoot, a promotional video drawn from live competition footage and professional talent mentoring.
There's also the ultimate Fan Favorite prize of a Funjet vacation that goes to the SCGT contestant who gets the largest number of online votes at dailyherald.com/entertainment/talent. Fan Favorite voting is also important for a contestant at risk of being eliminated since the top vote-getter for each round is guaranteed to move on.
By now, all of the contestants should have a new number planned for the Top 15 show Sunday. Then, the judges will weigh in, online voting will open once more and, next week, a Top 10 will be revealed.
"Aspiring performers -- I'm a huge fan of them," Onesti said. "To be able to sing is one thing, but to be able to go up in front of all those people with their eyes staring at you and giving all that you've got -- that's a big thing."
TOP 15 FINALISTS
Occupation: Student at Stratford Middle School
Most inspiring performance (of mine): When I see my mom and dad cried because of happiness and being proud about me ...
Hometown: Mount Prospect
Most inspiring performance (I've seen): I can't pinpoint one single performance that really did it for me, but when I was really young (4-5 years old), I really dug the Buckinghams' guitarist, Bob Abrams. I used to see the band at local festivals and was always awe-struck by the way the electric guitar worked. I was pulled up onstage with them once (5 years old or so) and bearing a plastic, toy guitar, I "jammed" with the band. The idea of performing live has always been appealing to me.
Occupation: Alexian Bros. central distribution
Talent: Vocalist and guitarist
Most inspiring performance (of mine): Summer Camp Music Festival
DeMuziq Artis (DeMarcus Artis)
Hometown: Oak Park
Occupation: Customer specialist at Avant Credit
Most inspiring performance (I've seen): Anytime I see performances on TV or concerts, I'm always inspired to do more to hopefully one day live my life on a stage. I look up to those who constantly defeat the odds and stay true to themselves, and the people around them, and just being confident in who they are.
Hometown: Elk Grove Village
Most inspiring performance (of mine): I had an amazing opportunity to sing the national anthem at a Chicago Cubs game last year. I was so nervous before I started singing because the stadium looked like it was full. Once I started singing, the crowd surprised me by cheering me on and my confidence started building. I ended up having a great performance. I guess you can never underestimate the power of love and support you can get from your audience.
Most inspiring performance (I've seen): There is no single performance that inspires me, but when I watch YouTube or Vine and see people performing their talents, it makes me want to perform more and inspires me to do better and work harder.
Jaooo (Jordan Madonia)
Hometown: Hoffman Estates
Occupation: Factory work
Talent: Hip-hop singer/writer
Most inspiring performance (of mine): The first time I ever performed. It made me realize the potential I have within me.
Mike L (Michael Lueck)
Hometown: Des Plaines
Occupation: Carpet cleaner
Talent: Multigenre singer
Most inspiring performance (of mine): When I performed at the Spectra talent show in Chicago at Our Lady of Mercy Church. The crowd went wild and told me how amazing my voice was. They said I should be on the radio, so I intend to do so.
Hometowns: Sean Adams of Hanover Park, Vernon Davis of Streamwood and Armond Mayberry of Hanover Park
Talent: Dance troupe
Most inspiring performance for Armond: We all grew up with dancing. Once we saw the Jabbawockeez, we were like "Wow!" We really have to step our game up.
Most inspiring performance (I've seen): When I heard the song "Lay Me Down" by Sam Smith. I was so impressed by that song that I had goose bumps.
Hometown: Chicago Ridge
Most inspiring performance (of mine): This past year, I performed for the NBA Kids Talent show and won first place in the semifinals and second place in the finals. It was a great experience and the staff were really nice.
Rachel (Rachel McPheeters)
Most inspiring performance (of mine): When I forgot the words for a new talent showcase at 17 years old in Branson, Mo., I was devastated. As I stood in front of the audience, drawing a blank ... I even failed to remember the words after a restart. It was only once I gathered myself, hearing another singer call out the first words, that I attempted to give my best and knock it out of the park, rather than run offstage. I have shown the video and shared with my students the lesson that I leaned about myself in preparation for dealing with stage fright, or giving speeches. It has been wonderful to look back on something that was initially an embarrassment, as one that I turned into a learning experience that I'm proud of.
Talent: Classical singer
Most inspiring performance (I've seen): Diana Damrau is an excellent coloratura opera singer. Her performance in Mozart's "The Magic Flute" is my favorite. On a more popular note ... Jackie Evancho on "America's Got Talent" showed the world that classical music isn't just for adults. I want to do the same.
Hometown: Mount Prospect
Occupation: Mother and receptionist for Salon Cienna in Palatine
Most inspiring performance (of mine): I come from a long line of Indian gospel singers, actors and tabla players but I am the only one that wants to fuse the several styles of music with western music.
Hope Rose (Hope Jirsa)
Hometown: Forest Park
Talent: Country singer
Most inspiring performance (of mine): When I sang at FitzGerald's 33rd American Music Festival in Berwyn in July of 2013. It made me realize I really wanted to pursue music as my career.