Suburban Chicago's Got Talent is back for its sixth year, with registration opening Friday for performers to join in the summerlong competition.
Musicians, comedians, magicians, slam poets, dance crews and more have showcased their talents in the contest's previous years.
Seventy private audition slots are available for the talent contest, which is co-sponsored for 2017 by the Daily Herald, Onesti Entertainment, the Prairie Center for the Arts in Schaumburg, the Arlington Heights Chamber of Commerce, Salon Lorrene, Zeigler Automotive Group and Amita Health.
Potential contestants can read all about how to enter here.
A lot of talent competitions give performers just one shot to compete before audiences. But the contestants who make it through the successive rounds of Suburban Chicago's Got Talent get multiple chances to perform and improve. They also get direct feedback from a panel of judges after each round, much like many talent-based reality TV shows.
It's that aspect that kept past Suburban Chicago's Got Talent winners like vocalist San Star Sandberg of Geneva (the 2016 winner) and musician Ryan Cooper of Schaumburg (a 2015 co-winner with Laura Burke's former band Burke Valley) to return again and again. Cooper won on his third year of trying, while Sandberg won on her fourth.
"You can get three different opportunities to change things based upon what the judges say," Sandberg said of Suburban Chicago's Got Talent's public competition rounds. "It's unlike other talent shows I've done where you might just get your feedback on a sheet of paper."
The initial auditions are held at Schaumburg's Prairie Center for the Arts Thursday through Saturday, June 15 to 17.
Those who get selected then compete in rounds for the top 20 on June 25, top 15 on July 16 and top 10 on July 30, also at the Prairie Center.
The ultimate winner is named after a performance at the Taste of Arlington Heights on Saturday, Aug. 5.
"If you have something special, you have to keep refining it and make sure it's something unique to you," Cooper said. "People can witness the work and really appreciate all the effort you put into it."
As in past years, the grand prize is a "STARter Kit" valued at $5,000. It features an opportunity to open for a national headlining act at the Arcada Theatre, career mentoring by Onesti Entertainment, and professional video and still photo shoots of a live performance.
There's also a competitive "Fan Favorite" component to Suburban Chicago's Got Talent. After the first three public performances, videos of all the competitors are posted online at dailyherald.com for the general public to cast votes. The act with the most votes is guaranteed to advance in the competition, while the contestant with the most cumulative online votes wins a Fan Favorite entertainment package with gift cards from local restaurants, theaters and attractions valued at more than $500.
"Do something totally different each time," was Sandberg's advice to wow and surprise both judges and audiences.
"(Suburban Chicago's Got Talent) exposes you to the wide variety of talent your local area has to offer," said Cooper, adding that he has joined with co-winner Laura Burke in subsequent concert gigs and is now busy performing with the band Polysci. "It was a great jump-start to being involved in the local music scene," Cooper said. "It prepared me for focusing on capturing the essence of your performance and really harnessing the talent to wow a crowd and engage the audience as much as possible."