When registration opened earlier this month for the sixth year of Suburban Chicago's Got Talent, Garrett Ryan immediately signed up for one of the 70 private audition spots.
The West Dundee singer-songwriter was a top 10 finalist for the summerlong talent competition last year, and he hopes he can once again make it to the final round.
"Any chance I get to play for people -- that's my favorite thing to do," said Ryan, also a 2013 winner of Schaumburg Idol and a recent architectural studies graduate from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "There's not a lot of opportunities for just a solo artist to play, to kind of put themselves out there, so it was a good opportunity."
And that opportunity is open to dozens of others as well. Registration for the competition continues through May 31, and performers are encouraged to sign up for the auditions, which run June 15 to 17. Rules and registration forms are available at events.dailyherald.com/talent.
The family-friendly contest has previously seen diverse acts such as tap dancers, comedians and even a yo-yo trickster. Yet musicians have dominated.
The contest is co-sponsored 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.
The 2017 grand prize is a "STARter Kit" valued at $5,000. It includes an opportunity to open for a national headlining act at the Arcada Theatre in St. Charles, career mentoring by Onesti Entertainment, and professional video and still photo shoots of a live performance. The winner is announced Aug. 5.
Suburban Chicago's Got Talent also seeks a Fan Favorite winner. 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 an entertainment package with gift cards from local restaurants, theaters and attractions valued at more than $500.
Ryan wants to perform more of his original material if he can make it through the top 20 (June 25), top 15 (July 16) and top 10 (July 30) rounds of public performances at Schaumburg's Prairie Center for the Arts. Last year, he did two covers of Ed Sheeran hits and two of his own songs.
"The judges' feedback after each round was nice and helpful to get better," said Ryan. "Everyone was extremely nice and supportive."