Talent competition

Contest finds local kids with artistic talents


Special to The Miami Herald

A torn ligament in her knee wasn’t about to stop Fiona Campbell from reaching her big dreams.

The 14-year-old had been in surgery last Thursday and found herself on stage Saturday night as part of the Young Talent Big Dreams finals competition.

“This morning I felt really dizzy but as soon as I came here I was pretty good,” said Fiona.

Fiona not only won first place in the individual vocal category, but she also placed first overall in the competition held in the Actors’ Playhouse at the Miracle Theatre.

She performed Cups, also known as You’re Going to Miss Me, from the movie Pitch Perfect which she mashed-up with Stay by Rihanna, by blending the songs together.

“I started off doing You’re Going to Miss Me When I’m Gone but then we changed it and remixed it with the Stay song,” said Fiona, who lives in the Blue Lakes neighborhood, near Tropical Park.

The decision paid off.

The four judges unanimously picked the middle-schooler as the winner of the competition, and praised her performance after the show.

“You were absolutely phenomenal,” said Natalie Lewis executive director of the youth organization PATH Inc. “You have such a beautiful voice.”

The other judges were Jodie Langel, a Broadway actress, Howard Cohen, a Miami Herald writer, and David Arisco, the artistic director of Actors’ Playhouse at the Miracle Theatre.

Fiona’s performance earned her a studio recording session with producer Paul Fakhourie, who has worked with Lauryn Hill, Eric Clapton and other musicians, along with a $500 cash prize.

“It’s college-fund money for sure,” said Fiona’s mom, Ren Campbell, who gave her daughter the option of backing out because of her leg. But that wasn’t an option.

“My daughter is so strong-willed she said is going to do this,” said Campbell.

But being a concerned parent, Campbell had a friend, who is a nurse, tag along for the performance — just in case.

Fiona competed against students ages 8-17 from around Miami-Dade County in the competition. There were seven categories, including individual spoken word, individual and group musical instrumental, and dance.

The winners in each category received a cash prize, a subscription members for two for flex tickets to the Actors’ Playhouse and headshots courtesy of Alberto Romeu Photography.

Winners of the dance categories will receive a scholarship to the Thomas Armour Youth Ballet.

New to the competition this year was the original composition category, in which contestants perform a piece they created themselves.

Leia Schwartz, 16, who writes music on her spare time, sang a song called Embrace Each Moment.

“There is always that one moment in our lives that we can look back on, and it’ll put a smile on your face, ” said Leia, a Palmetto Bay resident. “You never know when it will happen so you have to embrace each moment.”

Having grown up with a lung disease, Leia spent a lot of time in the hospital as a child. She drew from that experience when writing the song.

“I almost died when I was younger,” said Leia, who was encouraged to sing by one of her doctors as a way to exercise her lungs. “You never know when your time will end, so you have to live life to the fullest.”

Emily Cardenas, a spokeswoman with The Children’s Trust, the presenting sponsor, along with Actors’ Playhouse, said she was impressed by the entries.

“Very often we see kids who didn’t come from a magnet programs, who never had an ounce of professional coaching or training,” Cardenas said. “They are just at home singing in the shower or dancing in their living room and they are working at it because it’s their passion.”

The fourth annual edition of the competition will return with auditions in January.

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