Suburban Chicago's Got Talent finalists perform Sunday
Showmanship is one of the major factors for Suburban Chicago's Got Talent finalists to consider if they want to move on from the Top 15 in the summerlong competition, according to contest judge Ron Onesti.
"Connect with the audience," advised Onesti, president and CEO of Onesti Entertainment, a co-sponsor of the competition. "If you truly have passion, you have to transcend that passion into the eyes of the audience. And if your presentation is strictly something you hear aurally versus visually as well, that's going to separate the men and women from the boys and the girls."
Still in the running for the fourth annual competition are a few bands, a child pianist and singers of different styles. Quite a few are daring enough to perform original material, while others aim to put their own artistic stamps on current and classic hits.
"It's going to be interesting to hear because I was very pleased with the variety of songs and selections that were presented," said Onesti about the Top 20 show. "We heard Stevie Wonder, we heard Whitney Houston. There were so many of the classics that these young performers took the time to learn and appreciate and perform. Because of that, it's going to be very exciting to see what the next round of selections will be."
The Top 15 show is at 7 p.m. Sunday, July 19, at the Prairie Center for the Arts in Schaumburg. As with previous shows, the judges will offer advice to contestants following each of their performances.
Five acts will be cut before the Top 10 perform on Sunday, Aug. 2, and also on Saturday, Aug. 8, at the Taste of Arlington Heights, when the winners will be announced.
The finalists are vying for the STARter Kit grand prize, a promotional package to help further a budding artist's performing career. It includes a performance as an opening act to a major headliner at the Arcada Theatre in St. Charles, promotional photos and more.
There's also a Fan Favorite aspect to the competition that encourages the public to vote online at dailyherald.com/entertainment/talent. Voting in the Top 15 round will open next week, and the contestant with the most online votes is guaranteed a spot in the Top 10. The act with the most online votes throughout the competition wins a Funjet Vacation for two.
In addition to Onesti Entertainment, Suburban Chicago's Got Talent is sponsored by the Daily Herald, the Prairie Center for the Arts in Schaumburg, AMITA Health, Rohrman Auto Group, Salon Lorrene and the Arlington Heights Chamber of Commerce.
Here are this year's Top 15:
Challenges in life: There have been a couple of times the lights and gas were cut off trying to pursue my dreams.
Hometowns: Matt Buenger of Addison and Joe Christopoulos of Wood Dale
Talent: Rock band
Challenges in life: We recently recorded and released our first album completely by ourselves, with no financial support. It's been one of the most gratifying things we have ever done. The positive feedback we have been getting has made it even more amazing.
Hometowns: Laura Burke, Jason Edel, Ryan Gore, Alex Santilli and Mitch Klicki, all of Arlington Heights
Talent: Rock band
Challenges in life: Losing my No. 1 fan and greatest supporter.
Talents: Vocalist and guitarist
Challenges in life: I've grown so much over the past few years, developing my craft and technique to better insure a memorable experience for not only the people involved, but also to show myself what enormous positive effects music has on my well-being as a person and entertainer. I've come to appreciate more and more the gift of delivering a solid performance and enhancing my ability to reach out and connect with individuals on a personal level.
Hometown: Villa Park
Challenges in life: When I was in middle school, I was made fun of a lot and was very self-conscious about my music. It took a while for me to get my confidence back, but music proved to be my savior. Everything that happened I used as inspiration and it just made me stronger. Now I have plenty of friends and my music is getting even better. I have regular yearly gigs at some local fests and do a lot of open mics!
Talents: Singer and guitarist
Challenges in life: I'm lucky enough to have a loving family and an excellent mentor who have never done anything but encourage me to follow my dream.
Challenges in life: It is always a challenge when you lose your voice. Also being taken seriously. People see me as very pretty, and sometimes that overshadows their belief that I can be talented as well. People look at me and think I am a certain way, maybe stuck up but really I have insecurities like everyone and try to be a very approachable, likable and inspirational person.
Hometown: Arlington Heights
Challenges in life: Being a pianist takes many hours of practice every day. I started playing piano at age 5 and I play two hours every day. Biggest challenge is to carve out this time for practice and also have some relaxation time after school.
Talent: Pop/rock singer and pianist
Challenges in life: My grandmother, Molly, passed away in January of 2013. Molly was one of my biggest sources of inspiration, for she was a major role model of mine. Now, every time I sing, I look up to heaven and know she is watching over me. Another obstacle I encountered was transitioning from middle school to high school, just this last year. My high school is five times the size of my middle school, which meant the field of competition was now extremely larger. I was forced to put more focus, time and effort into my singing and performing. However, being surrounded by talented people in high school has made me a better performer.
Hometown: Arlington Heights
Talents: Multigenre singer and guitarist
Challenges in life: I was homeless and I was broke.
Talent: Classical singer
Challenges in life: Most of my peers aren't really interested in my type of music. My biggest challenge is trying to find the time to learn music, dance, vocal skills and acting all while maintaining great grades. It is hard to be so busy trying to achieve this goal that I have little time to be a kid.
Challenges in life: Well, obviously I'm not famous yet ... and that has been a challenge.
Hometowns: Daniella Ballarino of Mount Prospect, Haley Blomquist of Elk Grove Village, Lizzy Petitt of Arlington Heights, Anneliese Schulz of Elk Grove Village and Josie Treffy of South Elgin
Talent: Rock band
Challenges in life: Scheduling with school events to practice.
Talent: Pop singer
Challenges in life: Moving from California to Chicago.
Hometown: Mike, Marirose and Nick Rueth of Glen Ellyn
Talent: Sibling band
Challenges in life: We have been blessed that we have not had any major obstacles in performing.
Suburban Chicago's Got Talent Top 15Location: Prairie Center for the Arts, 201 Schaumburg Court, Schaumburg, (847) 895-3600 or prairiecenter.org
Showtime: 7 p.m. Sunday, July 19
Upcoming show: Top 10 at 7 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 2
Top 15 judges
Beth Waller: Cultural Arts Supervisor for the Schaumburg Park District
John Flamini: Chairman of the Cultural Commission, Village of Schaumburg
Barbara Vitello: A Lisagor Award-winning reporter, Daily Herald theater critic and legal affairs writer
Ron Onesti: President and CEO of Onesti Entertainment Corporation, which runs the Arcada Theatre in St. Charles and outdoor concerts throughout the area
Rob Pileckis: The Chicago resident has hosted events like Screen Test Student Fest film festival, Summer Breeze concert series and the Schaumburg Youth Orchestra's "Presto!" holiday concerts. He's also conducted interviews onstage with celebrities like opera star Danielle de Niese and Robert Osborne from Turner Classic Movies. For his day job, Pileckis works as production supervisor at the Schaumburg Prairie Center for the Arts.