Stage filled with talent at annual fundraiser

Special to the JournalJune 14, 2017 

Competition is a given in any talent show, but what the 19 area performing artists held in common during the Saturday evening Got Talent contest at the Lee’s Summit High School Performing Arts Center was that most of them exceeded their own expectations.

Time after time, celebrity judges were wowed by the vocalists, pianists, dancers and other performers ages 8 to 18 years old, marveling at the degree to which their talent had soared beyond their age and experience.

It was certainly true for both of the night’s winners. Eight-year-old vocalist Liana Jaramillo of Leawood earned the top prize of a $5,000 college scholarship for her performance of “How Far I’ll Go.”

In a very few years, Liana has progressed from her neighborhood singing lemonade stand (50 cents for lemonade or a song, a dollar for both), to accepting the giant check replica that was nearly as tall as she is.

“You are so fearless. You can do whatever you want,” judge Coleen Dieker said of her performance.

“Go audition for the Disney Channel,” judge Lauren Braton told her.

“She’s not just adorable, she’s very, very talented,” said judge Matt Lewis. “Here’s a young lady who could be on Broadway right now.”

Broadway is where she wants to be, Liana said. After all, she did sing, “If I go, there’s just no telling how far I’ll go.” She’s been singing since she was 3, and said years of performing meant she wasn’t at all nervous.

Thirteen-year-old vocalist Elaine Watson of Lee’s Summit was nervous. But only elegance and composure were evident as she sang Leonard Cohen’s captivating “Hallelujah,” and the audience text-voted her the Crowd Pleaser Award. She was awarded $500 for the award. Watson, who sang with the Campbell Middle School concert choir, will be a freshman at Lee’s Summit North this fall. She met her goal Saturday.

“I wanted to be able to bring people to tears and make them feel that song,” she said.

“You were born to sing,” Lewis told her. “I thought it was amazing.”

Braton said the song left her breathless at times.

“You have this strong sound and this incredible sensitivity. I was breathless at times.”

Dieker’s evaluation: “I think your voice will take you wherever you want to go.”

A number of performers had plans to study music and work toward becoming professional performers. A few had backup careers in mind: a pediatrician here, a veterinarian there. There was a future hopeful digital media technologist and one singer determined to become a second-grade teacher.

Other talents from the Kansas City area on stage Saturday were Allison Anderson, Sarah Cox, the “Devoted” duet of Avery Martin and Grace Nelson, Paige Donahoe, Alaina Garcia, Mallory Griffin, Lauren Howard, Olivia Johnson, Dani McCaulley, Maya Momon, Brad Parker, Simeon Prusia, Jaxie Smith, Drake Taylor, Madi Toman and Maddy Tyson.

Members of The Revolutionaries — London Kearns, Mia Sparks, Gracie Heath and Kathleen Brenneke — performed a song from hit Broadway musical “Hamilton.”

Rachel Segobia, director of Lee’s Summit CARES, a nonprofit community coalition which holds the annual fundraiser, told the audience that proceeds of the event will aid their efforts to prevent youth substance abuse and violence, empower positive parenting and promote exemplary character.

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