Meet the top 20 Suburban Chicago's Got Talent finalists

By Scott Morgan
Updated 7/6/2012 9:50 AM
  • Suburban Chicago's Got Talent top 20 finalist Rodriguez Dance Theatre. Jamie Hayden of Oak Park, Diana Corral of Woodridge, Brittany Vujasin of Des Plaines, Amy Echols of Algonquin and Julia Dostal of Des Plaines.

      Suburban Chicago's Got Talent top 20 finalist Rodriguez Dance Theatre. Jamie Hayden of Oak Park, Diana Corral of Woodridge, Brittany Vujasin of Des Plaines, Amy Echols of Algonquin and Julia Dostal of Des Plaines. Chelsey Boutan | Staff Photographer)

  • Suburban Chicago's Got Talent

    Suburban Chicago's Got Talent

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.

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 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.

Analiesse Albergo

Age: 14

Hometown: Bartlett

Occupation: Student

Talent: Singing

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."

Sarah Breidenbach

Age: 26

Hometown: Mount Prospect

Occupation: Commission specialist/subsidiary accountant

Talent: Singing

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."

Chris Errera

Age: 39

Hometown: Schaumburg

Occupation: Pianist

Talent: Pianist

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)

Age: 10

Hometown: Downers Grove

Occupation: Student

Talent: Singing

Favorite performers: Sarah Brightman, Jackie Evancho and Andrea Bocelli

Future hopes: "I want to sing to people on big stages."

Hutch (Shawn Michael Hutchings)

Age: 40

Hometown: Lake Zurich

Occupation: Music teacher/musician

Talent: Singer/songwriter/guitarist

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!"

iLLest Vocals

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

Talent: Singing/beat-boxing/dancing

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)

Age: 20

Hometown: Millington

Occupation: Musician

Talent: Singing/guitar

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)

Age: 48

Hometown: Lake Forest

Occupation: Dental implant manufacturer

Talent: Singer/songwriter/guitar

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."

Hannah Leclair

Age: 15

Hometown: Johnsburg

Occupation: Student

Talent: Singing

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."

AJ Lubecker

Age: 18

Hometown: Algonquin

Occupation: Student/part-time Berry Yo cashier

Talent: Comedian

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."

Shane Lubecker

Age: 16

Hometown: Algonquin

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."

Mark Lyons

Age: 48

Hometown: Palatine

Occupation: Guru of Green Growth

Talent: Singer/songwriter

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."

Kelsey Martin

Age: 18

Hometown: Prospect Heights

Occupation: Student

Talent: Singing

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."

Robert Osiol

Age: 19

Hometown: Mount Prospect

Occupation: Engineering student at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Talent: Pianist

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."

The Rendezvous

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."

Sophmore 64

Band Members: Jake Basala and Calvin Hughes, both 17

Hometown: Both of Lindenhurst

Occupations: Students

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

Occupations: Students

Talent: Songwriting/musicians

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."

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