The preliminary rounds of the talent contest Young Talent, Big Dreams are underway for 8- through 17-year-old Miami-Dade students. Music, dance, voice, spoken word and original composition are among the categories of the ongoing annual event.
The contestants are hoping their talent will take them to the semi-final and final rounds, where the most impressive will have a chance at winning prizes including performing arts scholarships, cash awards, and tickets to local performances and theater shows. The grand prize winner will receive $500 in cash.
The judged talent show started six years ago, when Earl Maulding, director of theater for young audiences at Coral Gables-based Actors’ Playhouse, and Barbara Stein, executive director of the Playhouse, met with Emily Cardenas of the Children’s Trust.
“We’ve got a theater, you’ve got the students that need the help,” he recalled of how the idea came to be. Maulding serves as the artistic director for the competition.
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“The reason we go out into the communities is to give young people a close place to go, to step on a professional stage, many times for the first time, and to take a chance on themselves. That’s more important than anybody going to the semi-finals or finals.”
There are no fees for those who enter, and although pre-registration is encouraged, walk-ins for the preliminary rounds are also welcome. During the preliminary auditions, each performer gets one minute to show judges their talent; two minutes are allotted for the semifinal and final rounds.
Performers who audition in the preliminary rounds will be contacted if they’re chosen to advance to the semi-finals. The semi-finals and finals draw large audiences from the community, but the preliminaries offer a more relaxed atmosphere and are done in front of four judges.
“For those that go from preliminary to semi-finals, to finals, one of the fun things is to see the growth when you invest some time and energy in a young person,” Maulding said.
Spoken Word was among some of the most powerful acts held at the African Heritage Cultural Center in Liberty City on Saturday. Another preliminary round will take place there on Saturday, April 2, from noon to 6 p.m.
“Is it too soon to enjoy the sun and the moon before bullets come running through our windows, bouncing off our stereo hitting a child that we may never get to know?” said 17-year-old Tatyana Penn, an 11th grade student at Krop Senior High School in Northeast Miami-Dade during her spoken word performance.
“Is it too soon to realize that’s there’s a gun the size of an invisible elephant in the room?” she said.
Tatyana says of her inspiration for her words: “Lots of children my age and younger are being shot and killed and there’s no reason for it — none!”
In a teal dress, Kahela Robinson, 15, a ninth grade student at Miami Central Senior High, danced to What is Love, by American soul-singer, V. Bozeman.
“Dance is a way of expressing myself and I think it can take me really far,” she told judges after her performance.
Sharon Walker, a dance instructor at the African Heritage Cultural Center, said the talent show is important because it offers “the experience of auditioning and competing among other groups or individuals and it gives the participants confidence in themselves.”
The mother of 8-year-old Alicia Voltaire told the judges after her daughter’s dance to the song I’m the One by the Cheetah Girls, “She told me what she wanted to do and I just had to make it happen.”
Judges look for three abilities in contestants: creativity, the entertainment value of the piece, and technical capabilities.
Most of the judges have backgrounds in dance, theater, and other music or performance-based categories.
Detailed information including the audition schedule, competition rules and registration forms can be found by visiting www.actorsplayhouse.org. Additional information can be found on their Facebook page.
There are several more dates left for preliminaries for parents who wish to enroll their children and teens.
The next round will be held noon to 6 p.m. Sunday, March 13, at South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center at 10950 SW 211th St.; noon to 6 p.m. Saturday, April 2, at the African Heritage Cultural Center, 6161 NW 22nd Ave.; 1 to 7 p.m. Saturday, April 9, at Miracle Theatre, 280 Miracle Mile, Coral Gables; and 2:30 to 7 p.m. Sunday, April 10 and April 17, at Miracle Theatre.
The semi-finals will be held 7 p.m. Saturday, April 30 and 3 p.m. Sunday, May 1, at Miracle Theatre.
The finals take place 7 p.m. May 7, at Miracle Theatre.
“Young Talent, Big Dreams gives young people the opportunity to take a chance” Maulding said. “As adults we know the only way to learn and grow is to do. This gives them the opportunity to do.