Ten Kansas City area high school students, including three who made the finals last year, have been chosen to vie for the 2015 title of KC SuperStar, which brings with it a $10,000 scholarship.
The 10 finalists were selected the area’s best high school singers from 24 semifinalists by a panel of judges this week at the Jewish Community Center. They compete in the finals of the “American Idol”-style competition Aug. 23 where the audience votes to determine this year’s KC Superstar. The finals are in Yardley Hall at Johnson County Community College.
The semifinalists performed before an overflow crowd of fans who screamed, cheered and waved signs supporting their favorites. The audience of more than 600 that jammed White Theatre is thought to be the largest since the event began in 2010.
“I think it probably was the largest and certainly one of the most exuberant crowds we’ve had for the semifinals,” said Tammy Ruder, who has produced all of the KC SuperStar events. “We had a great group of unique and very talented young singers who made it extremely difficult for the judges to narrow the field to the 10 finalists,” she said.
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Felice Azorsky, coordinator of the event, wasn’t surprised by the crowd.
“It’s bigger every year. I think this was the biggest one ever and maybe the most enthusiastic,” Azorsky said. “It’s like the contestants. They get better and better each year. One reason may be that we’re reaching more metro area kids every year, which means more talent,” she added.
The judges were Chris McCoy, a director at The Theatre in the Park; Julie O’Rourke-Kaul, a professional actress, and Martha Risser, a music director. The contestants were introduced by Krista Blackwood, cultural arts director at JCC and emcee of the event.
In addition to the $10,000 scholarship that goes to the winner, second place receives a $5,000 scholarship, third a $2,500 scholarship and fourth a $1,000 scholarship. The other six finalists each receive a $500 scholarship.
Last year’s KC SuperStar was Keith Klein, a graduate of Blue Valley Northwest, who is attending Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y.
His younger brother, Austin, 17, also a graduate of Blue Valley Northwest, is one of this year’s finalists. This is his first time in the competition.
“I was more aware of the SuperStar event after my brother won. So I decided to try it,” Austin said. “I’m absolutely excited about making the finals. The level of talent blew me away. Everyone was so good anyone could have won,” he said. “I was pleased with the way I sang. I think I did my best.”
His brother was in the audience.
“He was happy for me. He told me he thought I did all right,” said Austin, who sang “Ring of Fire.” “We both have a deep love for the Big Band era and singers like Sinatra and Dean Martin. I do lean a little more toward country music, old-style country music like Johnny Cash.”
Kate Cosentino, 16, a sophomore at Blue Valley West, placed third last year and made the finals again. “I’m really excited about having another opportunity to be part of such a fun event. Of course, I’d like to place first this time,” she said with a laugh. “I think it’s time for a girl to win.”
“I think I feel more pressure to do well this year,” she said. “But at the same time I’m more comfortable because of my past experience.”
Other finalists back for another run at the $10,000 scholarship are Tessa Hake, a sophomore at Blue Springs High School, and Prince Russell Johnson, a senior at Wyandotte High School.
“I got so close with other contestants last year they seemed like a second family. It was an amazing experience,” Tessa said. “I wanted to do it again.”
“I tried to connect more with the audience this year. The competition this time was insane, everyone was so good. It gets harder each year,” she said.
Allie Bostwick, a senior at St. Thomas Aquinas, is in the finals for the first time. “I’m really excited, and a little surprised. There were so many people so talented,” she said. “I just did my best and it turned out all right. I wanted to try it. Now I’m glad I did.”
Ruder will rehearse with the contestants between now and the finals in August. “I’ll help them select a song that best suits them for the finals,” she said.
At the finals a panel of judges picks the top four from the 10 finalists then the audience votes for the 2015 KC Superstar.
The finalists, their school and their songs:
Allie Bostwick, St. Thomas Aquinas, “At Last.”
Kate Cosentino, Blue Valley West, “Don’t Know Why.”
Tessa Hake, Blue Springs, “When I Was Your Man.”
Alex Haywood, Libby Lane Academy, “My Everything.”
Prince Russell Johnson, Wyandotte, “Stand By Me.”
Austin Klein, Blue Valley Northwest, “Ring of Fire.”
Sebastian McCarty, Blue Valley North, “The Man Who Can’t Be Moved.”
Monica Stanley, St. Teresa’s, “Cry Me a River.”
Lorre’al Triplett, Olathe South, “Love is You.”
Bethany Vermillion, homeschooled, “Gravity.”