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March 4, 2009 > Teens sing, perform the night away

Teens sing, perform the night away

By Justine Yan
Photos By William Mancebo

On Friday, February 27, finalists of the annual Fremont Teen Talent Showcase performed for an enthusiastic and supportive audience at the Fremont Teen Center.

This is the fourth year of the talent competition, supported by the Fremont Youth Advisory Commission (YAC) and the City of Fremont Parks and Recreation Department. During three Semifinal Nights, held February 18 through 20, dancers, comedians, solo singers, and bands with diverse styles performed for a judging panel composed of teens on the YAC and experienced musicians from the local area, as well as an audience of family and supporters. Those chosen to advance to the finals performed in front of a larger audience during Friday's main event, while competing for bragging rights, cash prizes, gift cards donated by local businesses, and trophies.

Fifteen acts were scheduled on the final night's program, but three solo singers were absent due to illness and other reasons.

According to Rena Dein, City of Fremont Recreation Supervisor and director of the event, most of the bands as well as many of the solo singers that advanced to the finals will receive future opportunities to perform at local venues.

"Anybody who is trying to break into the biz, or likes to be in front of people - they love that opportunity," she continued.

And for many of the performers the Fremont Teen Talent Showcase was a great step toward their future goals. TCV interviewed two solo singers and two bands during the event, to learn more about the hard work that led up to the show, their inspirations and current musical endeavors.

The show started off when Miss Alameda County 2009, Katie O'Brien, one of the show's judges and a senior at Irvington High School, sang two songs from the musicals "Grease" and "Wicked."

Next, a band called The Squeaks performed two Beatles songs. 3 young teenagers from Fremont created The Squeaks about two years ago; they are: Lelan Fernando, 14, Lance Fernando, 13, and Marc Messier, 16. The three met while playing jazz music together as fellow members of the East Bay Jazzinators.

"We were just like messing around after jazz bands and we just decided to start up our own band," said Lelan.

For their final night's performance, Lelan played the bass and sang supporting vocals, Lance played the guitar and sang lead vocals, and Marc played the drums.

Marc said, to him, earning money from being invited to perform at local events is the "best part" of being in the band. But Lelan said band members also enjoy the recognition they have received since performing at a local farmers' market.

"We have people we don't even know saying 'hi' to us. It's kind of strange," said Lelan.

The Squeaks practice regularly while continuing to participate in jazz competitions. Besides Beatles covers, they frequently perform their own songs.

* * *

Kelsey Findlay, a freshman at Fremont's Irvington High School, aims to star on Broadway in the future. She started to sing at the age of three and is currently a part of her high school's production of "Grease," as a background character. She believes that being in high school theatre has helped her gain confidence.

When asked how she usually practices her singing, she said, "Oh, I belt it out in my bedroom. I'll stay up all hours of the night, and my mother - she always comes into my bedroom [and tells me], 'I wish we had sound-proof walls...Please, go to bed.'"

Besides singing, Findlay loves to paint and draw, inspired most by "soulful singers," especially Queen Latifah.

"I want to go onto American idol, but I have got to wait, maybe until I'm out of high school," she said. As a second year performer at the talent showcase, she plans to participate next year as well.

* * *

Priya Vijaykumar is a freshman at Mission San Jose High School in Fremont, where she currently participates in the music theatre. She began singing in the third grade with her elementary school choir, and in sixth grade, she began to try solos. Since then, she has been named the Hopkins Junior High School Idol in the 7th and 8th grades, as well as the Union City teen idol earlier this year.

A day before her semifinal performance, Priya fell sick with a fever.

"So I sang through the fever and the cough and the cold and everything, even though I ended up coughing through some of my song," she said. "I am still a little sick, I have a cough, but it's not as bad as last week. So I hope nobody could tell I was sick [when performing]."
Priya sang, "If I Ain't Got You," for the final competition.

* * *

The last performance of the night was by the "The Shouts," an experimental, alternative rock band composed of 5 members who had gotten together after meeting each other while working at a Cold Stone Creamery.

"We met up and decided that we kind of wanted to throw together something. And it...just came together," said Joseph Rivera, 17, lead vocalist and percussionist, of Moreau Catholic High School in Hayward.

The band members are: Nikita Arsenyev, 17, Rafael Garcia, Jr., 20, Jesse Love, 19, Joseph Rivera, 17, and Dominic Rodriguez, 20. The 5 have been playing together since September of 2008.

"We started off at Bay Street Coffee [in Fremont] playing every Saturday," said Dominic, bassist and supporting vocalist. "And that was our motivation to get together, and practice every week"

After the band's first big show at Mirror Image studios in Los Angeles, The Shouts "just kicked off."

"Something happened, something clicked during that show, and every since, we've just kind of skyrocketed with our own kind of style," said Joseph. "And that's what you see now."

"You can't see it, you got to hear it," the other band members chimed.

Dominic said that, upon hearing about the Teen Talent Showcase, they immediately signed up to perform. "It's hard to get shows as it is, around Fremont and the Bay Area," he said.

In terms of style, Jesse Love, electric guitarist, feels that The Shouts are defined by their capacity to bring joy to the audience.

"We don't usually play for the audience so much as we play for everyone else in the band," added Nikita Arsenyev, also an electric guitar player and a student at Moreau Catholic.

The Shouts are planning to return to Los Angeles for another inspiring show in April, while they continue to look for local opportunities to share their music.

"The more we play, the more our styles start to meld. And, who knows, months from now, we might have a different style, but it wills till be the same Shouts," said Joseph.

* * *
The finals night also included a comedy performance by Sarah Diane Llanes, as well as solo singing by Sidney Ortega, Mariah Diaz, Cristof Ronquillo, and Kaylie Steward. Group performances were done by 3-Way, JT Hernandez, Fuzzion & Big Nic, and She Waves the Flag.

The Fremont Teen Talent Showcases certainly presented a large range of musical styles and included remarkable young singers and band members from all around the Tri-City area. Do you have talent? Don't miss registration for next year's show!

Final Results

1st place, Audience favorite solo: Priya Vijaykumar
2nd place, Audience favorite solo: Cristof Ronquillo
3rd place, Audience favorite solo: Kaylie Stewart

1st place, Judge's favorite solo: Kelsey Findlay
2nd place, Judge's favorite solo: Cristof Ronquillo
3rd place, Judge's favorite solo: Kaylie Stewart

1st place, Judge's favorite group: The Shouts
2nd place, Judge's favorite group: She Waves the Flag
3rd place, Judge's favorite group: JT Hernandez, Fuzzion & Big Nic

1st place, Audience favorite group: The Shouts
2nd place, Audience favorite group: She Waves the Flag
3rd place, Audience favorite group: (tie) JT Hernandez, Fuzzion & Big Nic AND The Squeaks

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