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8th Annual Talent Show

The Monson Arts council regrets to announce that its talent competition, "Western Mass Performs", has been cancelled due to insufficient applicants. It particularly regrets the disappointment to those who have applied; all will receive full refunds of their application fees. Of equal concern is the failure to fund a scholarship award for this year. It will be up to the board to determine if an award can be offered.

We made this decision was taken Tuesday evening, with 24 hours to go before the application deadline and 48 hours before the first planned auditions. It was necessary to make sure that all affected parties were informed in a reasonable time frame.

This was a heart-wrenching decision. We were well short of the number of applicants needed to insure a financial success and a quality show. We feel that the show also supplies a unique performance opportunity to those who participate, and we are very much hoping that we can still offer it in an altered form.

If there is enough interest among applicants, and Memorial Hall is available as a venue, the scholarship Committee hopes to stage a "performance bash", with no entry fee, no auditions and no judges. If this is successful, it may offer a model for the show going forward.

2015 Talent Show a Feast of Voices

2015 Winners
In alphabetical order, click to magnify

All Winners

Benjamin Buck

Christina Colon

Callie Damouras

Damouras Berenson Fuhrman

Ugochukwa Iyeh

Jasmine Scott

The eighth annual Monson Arts Council talent show, Western Mass Performs, was held on Saturday night, March 21, before an enthusiastic crowd. For the first time in three years, the show was held on its scheduled date and time, without interference from the weather.

Though there was a strong contingent of dance performers and a range of other acts, in the eyes and ears of the judges it was clearly the year of the voice. The three cash prizes each went to a vocalist, three very impressive and very different voices, each drawing on its own particular strength.

The first prize of $1000 went to Christina Colon of Wilbraham, a 16 year old who is clearly on the cusp of an exciting professional career. Her rich and powerful voice, coupled with her own piano accompaniment, could have filled the large auditorium without amplification, had she chosen to. She gave a wonderful rendition of "It's a Man's World” by James Brown. Peter Barnett, president of the Monson Arts Council and organizer of the talent show, said, "This is one of those 'I knew her when' moments. Keep your eyes on Christina! She is so impressive that we have asked her NOT to compete next year, but rather toreturn as a guest artist and inspiration.” Second prize of $500 went to another singer with a voice that was also powerful, but purer and less gritty. Callie Damouras of Belchertown offered up a rendition of "Porgi Amor”, an aria from Mozart's "Marriage of Figaro”, bringing the audience into a very different world. The aria, a combination of beauty and anguish, was sung with a lovely combination of feeling and restraint.

The third prize winner of $250 was Ugochukwa Iyeh, a native of Nigeria currently residing in Springfield whose profession is medicine but whose passion is singing. This passion is very much on his sleeve as he puts his entire heart into his soaring tenor. His rendition of "I have nothing” gave perfect scope to his intense and heartrending style.

In addition to the three cash awards, the judges awarded three honorable mention prizes to some very deserving performers. Ten year old Benjamin Buck of Longmeadow gave the audience an old-fashioned dance hall or Cabaret performance of "Chattanooga Choochoo”, reminiscent of the early 20th century. A second honorable mention went to a dance trio which include another Damouras sister, Abby, who joined McKenzie Berenson and Ashley Fuhrman in a dance based on "My Sister's Keeper”, choreographed by their instructor Mandy Goudreau, also of Belchertown. Lastly, yet another vocalist was recognized, Jasmine Scott of Holyoke, who accompanied herself on the guitar in a rendition of "Who Knew?, was an inspiration for all of us who struggle to get in front of a crowd and put ourselves into the limelight.

Peter Barnett, in his final comments to audience, looked ahead to a future filled with change for the talent show, as it completes its last year at Granite Valley middle school and looks forward to a return to a reopened Memorial Hall.

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