“Tenacious” best describes a sixth-grade young woman who tried out last year for Dixie’s Got talent but was not chosen as a top fifteen contestant. Not to be deterred, when she saw the sign in the window at Lin’s grocery store advertising the second annual DGT and recalling the fun she had last year, she immediately sent in an application to compete! Brooklyn states that she is one of few 11-year-olds in Saint George that can sing a classical song in Italian. Preparing for her long-term dream to sing and perform on Broadway, Brooklyn has been singing since age seven and training with Brodie Perry for the last two years. She distinctly remembers attending the musical, South Pacific, and thinking, at a very young age, “I want to do that!” Once, when some kids were being really mean to a girl at school, she demanded that they stop their cruelty. In addition to her confidence and courage, Brooklyn is described by her friends as: outgoing, fun, creative and dramatic. Currently enrolled as a student at Vista Charter School, Brooklyn is working for the best performance of her life this year in Dixie’s Got Talent!
Oliver (in the recent Dickens Festival Musical) was our own 2011-returning top fifteen finalist, Caleb Furse! Proclaiming it the best play he’s ever been in, Caleb learned to stay in character and loved returning to musical theatre. A big favorite last year, Caleb is a very caring person who helps people in need and looks to lift a burdened heart whenever he comes across someone hurt or feeling sad. Even though Caleb is only in sixth grade at Hurricane Intermediate School, he is clear that he would like to earn college music degrees and pursue his life’s occupation in the field of music. His passion for music started when he heard one of Josh Groban's CDs and decided he wanted to begin taking voice lessons. Caleb’s vocal training began with Bonnie LeBaron at age nine and he is currently working with Brodie Perry, whom Caleb describes as the most amazing, awesome teacher around! His friends describe him as nerdy, but Caleb is happy being him; loves learning songs in different languages, and says he really doesn’t like current music. When he grows up, he wants to make older music popular!
Describing her life as a musical that never ends, Janna Ostler declares boldly that "Classical Music Rocks!!!" As a sixth grader at Vista Charter School, her friends describe her as: kind, funny, talented, amazing and, of course, humble!! Her teacher, Victoria Andrus, and Janna’s family members, who all play at least one musical instrument, have provided the wind beneath her wings for the last four years as she has studied violin. A resourceful young woman, Janna has even traded babysitting to help pay for her violin lessons. When asked what the secret to her success is, Janna stated emphatically that "...practice, practice, practice and more practice is the key" to her passion and excellence in violin. Long term, Janna would love to attend college with a musical scholarship and share her talents in a much wider circle in her future!
The challenge for Lauren Cain is: fitting eight hours of disciplined music prep time, jazz practice, band practice, flute and piano practice, plus homework, a little food and sleep into every 24-hour period!! Currently a Desert Hills Middle School ninth grader, Lauren teaches a few piano students, plays volleyball for SUVA, and loves sketching clothing fashions in her spare time. Lauren’s eventual goal of attending Juilliard on a piano performance scholarship seems to be on track; she started piano lessons at six, accompanied her fifth-grade choir as they sang The Star Spangled Banner. She went on to play for the middle school’s jazz band in eighth grade and is currently the accompanist for the Desert Hills High School Jazz band. One could say she inherited her passion for music. Her great-great grandfather played in a band, her great grandfather sang in a quartet, her grandmother played piano and sang in performing groups at BYU and her mother sings with the Southern Utah Heritage Choir! Lauren’s fans say she has a cute laugh and is tenacious; this is evidenced by the fact that she was a top fifteen DGT finalist last year. This year, she is in it to WIN IT!!!
Professor Amano, described by Ryan Gubler as one of the best piano teachers in the world, stoked a musical fire inside him during the Utah State piano camp that changed his heart forever! Since then, and with the vision and direction of his mother, Mary Ann Gubler, Ryan has worked hard to pursue his long-term goal of attending BYU on a music scholarship. His two older brothers have helped provide the impetus required for him to give up other possible ways of spending his time by practicing diligently to accomplish his goal; his brothers both play the piano, and one has a scholarship to Utah State University. Ryan believes his current teacher, Dr. Lynn Dean, one of the best piano teachers in Saint George, encouraged him to audition for Dixie’s Got Talent as a way to strengthen his piano performance experience before a large audience!
Starting piano lessons at seven at his mom’s insistence, Gregory Anderson has been playing piano for 16 years and believes classical piano is "...just plain awesome!" After making “Salute To Youth,” he was motivated to work even harder. His piano teacher, Dr. Nancy Allred, has pushed him to develop his talent and in his words, “she will not accept 'no' for an answer!” His wife provides the wind beneath his wings and his friends describe him as: kind, generous and forgiving. One time, Gregory was practicing and played a note really hard and the piano string broke! He was so jazzed and excited; he will never forget that moment! In his spare time, he sells computers at the Dixie State College Bookstore. Although he struggles with some wrist pain which makes it oftimes difficult to play, Gregory is motivated to get his piece to the perfect speed by game time. Win or lose, if he can play it to his teacher’s and his own high expectations, he believes his life will be fulfilled!
“While still in the womb I was probably singing and dancing along with my incredibly-musical family as they performed at senior homes, the Festival of Trees and Peach Days, to name just a few,” proclaimed Laura LeBaron. She cannot remember a day without music in her family's home. Currently a senior at Hurricane High School, Laura has attended the Young Ambassadors Singing Entertainers at BYU for the past two years and will be attending this July. The last two years, she has also been a competitor in SUFPAF, receiving a Superior+ rating in 2009 - last year, a superior rating with a $250 dollar scholarship to a week-long vocal camp at Tuacahn. Her long-term goal is to attend Dixie State College followed by BYU to earn a master’s degree in music. Currently in a show called The Taffetas, Laura’s friends describe her as a shining burst of energy with a definite dramatic flair!
Born to musically-inclined parents, Michael believes the wind beneath his musical wings "...is family: those that are, those that have been, and those who are to come." His introduction to music began with piano lessons at three, and his long-term aspiration is to become a star on Broadway. His first taste of the stage was in Brigadoon, which ignited the desire to spend his life doing vocal performances. Additionally, Michael would love to devote his time and talents to teaching others how to maximize and share their musical gifts. Michael’s fans describe him as: talented, smart, hardworking, devilishly handsome, and well rounded as he is also a very talented athlete.
Dreaming of touring as a professional musician helped provide the motivation for Sabrina Parry to dedicate herself to practicing her music hard for nine years. Last April, she won the Youth Concerto Classic Competition and soloed with the Southwest Symphony. She is currently in 11th grade and recognizes her mother’s influence in planting the seeds of a lifelong love of classical music while Sabrina was a very young child. Sabrina started her piano training at six and never intends to stop! Sabrina is not your typical, self-described professional student! She shares that she was actually accepted into Hogwarts at age 13 but was later expelled because she was too funny! Her friends describe her as: crazy, loud, super bubbly and fun! That all sounds like the typical classical music-type girl, don’t you think?
This Spring, Sierra McCleve will graduate from Dixie State College and launch her dream to frequently perform in different cities across America. Sierra's love for music began in the third grade when she started piano lessons; the lessons established a lifelong musical love and foundation. Remembering her father playing as a child, she felt drawn to the chords and melody of music. Much later, when Wide Eyed Wildlife got together and started jamming for fun as friends, they were thrilled with their combined talents and decided to pursue their musical dreams together. Sierra feels that music allows people to connect to each other and share beautiful moments; however, working with a group can create unique challenges which require constant communication, patience and open-mindedness. A few years ago, at a concert of one of her favorite artists, Sierra was stunned by the performer’s confidence and musical ability. That experience changed her entire approach to her performance's presentation style. Currently a sales professional, Sierra is described by her friends as: creative, confident, vintage, honest, and stunningly beautiful with a wide variety of interests that complement her musical pursuits.
Matt McCleve first heard about DGT from his bandmate, but his love for music began as a very young child when his father would play records and ask him to listen for different instruments and voice parts in songs. His performing interest was flamed when, in 2002, he attended a Vans Warped tour. They played their music with singular passion, and Matt remembers seeing the fans all around him completely immersed in rehearsing the lyrics back to the performers. It made him long for that same experience some day. Reflecting on the origin of their group, Matt remembered the lead singer/song writer sharing a song he had written. The group fell in love and wanted to bring the feeling and power of that and other original music to audiences. Currently a workforce analyst and a full-time student at Dixie State College majoring in mathematics, Matt is described by his those who know him as: a leader, honest, kind and someone who can make friends with anyone!
The first time Michael saw his older brother play live music for an audience he was hooked on the dream of someday being a musical performer. For two years, he has been a part of Wide Eyed Wildlife and loves that they are all committed to music that offers a fresh new approach with greater sound dynamics, more creativity and more daring! Jim Croce has been his musical inspiration as well as Conor Oberst. His most recent musical challenge was trying to figure out a way to get all their equipment to the college for the Dixie’s Got Talent audition. They persisted, prevailed and now hope to inspire and relate to people with their music. Michael is described as fun-loving and daring. He also works part-time while attending college and enjoys jamming with his friends any chance he gets.
Born into the Nielsen Family Singers, Amy couldn’t help but have music in her soul from generations before her. Trained in piano as a child, her musical journey eventually led to the performing stage and singing - her first love! Her favorite musical genre grew from attending a production of La Boheme at Brigham Young University. It was her first opera and the power of the music and story - coupled with amazing vocal talent - touched her heart in a life-changing way. It forever burned within her the desire to be able to sing for others and have their souls touched as hers was that night. Amy currently holds a master’s degree in music and plans to achieve a doctorate degree in music. She also desires to become a professional opera vocalist and create youth and adult music programs in the Southern Utah area. A peek into her personality was evidenced in the first grade when she encountered two third-grade boys bullying a classmate. She intervened with clenched fists and ordered them to stop or else they would have to deal with her! Her friends describe her as loyal and absolutely committed to musical excellence.
Cole is another, not-to-be-deterred Dixie’s Got Talent contestant. Cole tried out with a group last year, and, though they gave an excellent performance, fell short of the final fifteen. This year he has come back to perform as a soloist. This determination has sustained him throughout his 17 years of musical experience. Following in the footsteps of his parents who were in bands while he was growing up, Cole has pursued his musical dream to make a living doing what he loves most - without distraction. His family, including three children, comes first in his life as he continues to evolve in his musical career - fighting challenges within the industry and turning a deaf ear to naysayers. As a third round American Idol season seven contestant, he was cut and as the show’s judges pestered him for a reaction, he just smiled and said, “Thank you!” His friends and supporters describe him as driven, outgoing and talented!
Currently a piano/vocal major at Dixie State College, Emma walks into a room having made the decision to love everyone inside with the assumption that they will love her. "That positive energy," Emily has found, "makes life easier and more fulfilling." It may be the reason her friends describe her as outgoing, energetic, happy and well grounded. She vividly remembers her father singing her to sleep as a little child to these songs: "Pretty Little Horses" and "Autumn to May." That feeling of safety in the arms of music, plus a collection of CDs her parents gave her for Christmas one year - featuring favorites from classical composers- laid the foundation for a life-long pursuit of music. The emotional power from certain music that moves her soul compels her to polish and present it to others that they might feel the same. Long term, Emma would love to write, arrange, accompany, perform and teach music - all while balancing her family constraints. It will be a challenge, but one from which she will not back down!
A mother of three with 40 piano students and a full-time college student, Jennifer Redfearn feels that the musical wind beneath her wings is Dr. Nancy Allred. As a returning college student, Jennifer feels that she has a second chance to fulfill her educational dreams. It is a very difficult balancing effort, but, as she tells her children, "when life is hard, the right choice is to work harder and harder!" Her foundation in music began at age eight when she began taking piano lessons. Her secret weapon in musical performance is to work until her numbers are perfectly polished! She has been described by her friends as: reliable, kind, funny and energetic. Her sense of humor was tried when she was taking her driver’s exam; as she was backing out for the test, she hit the car next to her! Life happens, but Jennifer feels that whatever comes, music calms the inner soul and lifts each day to a higher level!
When Kiki’s daughter was born in 2005, Kiki nearly died during childbirth. Kiki was hospitalized for a week and suffered severe postpartum depression for eight months. Part of the impetus to recovery was her commitment to complete her education at Dixie State College in 2006, then a bachelor’s degree in music at Southern Utah University. It was at SUU when she performed in The Magic Flute that she realized her musical path had to be opera! Kiki has been taking voice training for 15 years; her passion is to become a professional opera singer. Her musical journey began at age five as she and her family would perform at church and moved on to pop and musical theatre. But eventually, her repertoire and driving passion became opera! Her friends admit that Kiki can be a little over the top - she likes things BIG!!
Come see these contestants perform at the Dixie's Got Talent Finals on January 24th and 25th at the Cox Auditorium at 7:00 p.m. each night! Remember that the audience's vote accounts for 50% of the contestants' scores, so come and vote for your favorites! Tickets for each night's performance can be purchased for $10 each in advance - or $12 at the door - and are available at any location of The Village Bank, at Realty Express (164 W 700 S, St. George, UT), at Lin's Marketplace in St. George and Hurricane and at Dixie State College's north administration building.