Eighteen stellar performances by young artists from across the metro drew enthusiastic applause and standing ovations on Saturday evening at the eighth annual Lee’s Summit CARES Presents: Got Talent.
Vying for over $6,000 in scholarships, musicians, vocalists, dancers and other performers brought their artistic gifts, passion and energy to the Lee’s Summit High School Performing Arts Center stage.
This year, 45 acts tried out to earn a spot in the program. Dancer Kennedy Newell was one of those 18 finalists.
“I was very surprised and so happy when I saw the list,” Kennedy said. “It was such a big accomplishment for me, and I was so excited I got chosen. I had never really done anything like this and didn’t expect when I auditioned that I would be chosen.”
During Saturday’s competition, judges evaluated performers on ability, execution, stage presence and the “wow” factor. Audience members were also given an opportunity to vote by text for their favorite performers.
Though the event shared much in common with those of past years, there were new elements for both performers and audience members.
Acts like Paige Jones’ Hula-Hoop performance to “Don’t Let Me Down” and Preston Stein’s magic act, “Perception Is Reality,” added variety to this year’s lineup. 2018 was also the first year dancers won. Kennedy and the tap-dancing duo of Madison Grand and Allison Beech both took home scholarships.
Also, unlike past competitions, several groups won this year.
“We had 11 winners and 29 total performers,” said Rachel Segobia, executive director of Lee’s Summit CARES. “That means one-third of our contestants went home with some type of scholarship.”
Performer and producer Matt Lewis, a Lee’s Summit graduate, served as one of the three judges, a role he has filled in all of the competition’s previous years.
“I grew up in Lee’s Summit school system and got the very best training there with my vocal teachers, Carla Oliver and Steve Perry,” he said. “They prepared me so well for the professional world. They gave me the foundation for going out and being successful. I want to be a part of helping other performers prepare for this world as well.
“For a lot of these kids, Got Talent is the first time they’ve performed in a venue like this. It’s the start of their performing journey, and we’re definitely looking for the greatness in each one.”
“After this year’s show, performers also received more direct feedback in a closed session, which was really helpful to them,” Segobia noted.
Lewis shared some differences he noticed in this year’s event.
“This year we had a lot of original music. Performers are very vulnerable when they write something and present it to strangers. It takes a lot of courage because they risk rejection of something very personal to them.”
Lewis said he also noticed an increase in performers’ social awareness.
“It seems like performers didn’t just pick a song, but they also wanted to send a message. They wanted to create awareness of social issues we’re facing, and I’m very encouraged by that.”
Vocal quintet NorthStrong, who performed Katy Perry’s “Rise,” is one of the groups committed to raising social awareness. Earlier this year, these Lee’s Summit North students formed the group in response to the suicides of fellow students in 2017.
“We’d been talking about forming the group, but after the two deaths happened in our school, the idea was solidified,” said Dane Lackey, NorthStrong founder. “Our main goal is to bring about awareness of mental illness, suicide and bullying, so we can mitigate these problems and help save people’s lives through the power of music.
“Got Talent was a lot of fun for us. We were there to perform, show what we’d like to do for the community and have fun — and we had a lot of fun.”
Members of the group Clouds and Cannonfire also had fun performing the song, “This Is Me” from “The Greatest Showman.” Their energetic performance brought the audience to its feet.
The group won the evening’s top prize, a $3,000 scholarship from SMART Sheet Metal Workers Local Union No. 2.
“We’ve been playing together for a couple of years, but this was our first time to perform in a show setting,” said band member Cooper Carr. “I honestly didn’t know what to expect because there were so many talented acts. None of us came in expecting to win.
“The most important thing for us was to come and have fun together, but winning was a really cool surprise.”
2018 Lee’s Summit CARES Presents: Got Talent winners
$3,000 scholarship Grand Prize Award winners: Clouds and Cannonfire, a 7-piece band performing “This Is Me.”
$1,500 scholarship Crowd Pleaser Award winner: Kennedy Newell in a lyrical dance number “She Used to Be Mine.”
$1,000 scholarship Shining Star Award winner: Elaine Watson, in a vocal performance of “Brand New Me.”
$500 scholarship Power Performer winner: Madison Grand and Allison Beech in a tap dance to “Pretty Young Thing.”
Vocalists: Alexa Boyd, Jaxie Smith, Neena Shankar, Elaine Watson, Jordin MacKenzie, Mia Sparks, Josephine Sibert, and the quintet NorthStrong.
Instrumentalists: Elizobette Cobler, ukulele, and Simeon Prusia, guitarist.
Dancers: Ziaira Griffin, Kennedy Newell, Madison Grant and Allison Beech, Lucy Hammontree, and Brea Hurst.
Additional acts: A Hula-Hoop routine performed by Paige Jones, a magic act by Preston Stein, and the band Clouds and Cannonfire.
In addition, Lee’s Summit High School advanced film students premiered their original short films while the audience and judges’ votes were being tallied. They were: Alyssa Eyre, Carly Roberts, Abby Collins, Nicole Jacobsen, Lily Smith, Hope Kelsey, Kendall Reuhling, Tia Shrout, John Abernathy, Jaclyn Berry, Mike Smith, Emma Oesterly, Sydnee McDonald, Jackson Brouillette, Abbey Lewis, and Isabel Howayek.
This year’s judges are all Lee’s Summit High School alumni:
Christina Burton, a singer, choreographer and UMKC instructor
Matt Lewis, an Elvis impersonator and executive producer of SimonWill Entertainment in Las Vegas
Steve Serrano, head of programming and on-air personality at Mix 93.3, as well as entertainment/music correspondent for Better KC on KCTV5.
Michael Dragen, actor and founding member of the Summit Theatre Group, was the event emcee.