For the first time, the stakes of the annual Teen Talent Contest were high. Out of 10 entrants, five acts emerged from auditions to be featured in this year’s Oak Harbor Music Festival.
Winners were Rosahlee Von Kappel, Taliah Black and Keelie Partridge in their duo Two and Ghost, Elsian Atienza, Alexander Amick and Sarah Gallagher.
“We’re just really blown away by these kids,” said Deirdre Fairfax, teen talent coordinator for the music festival.
She said the judges struggled to pick the top five performers, especially because it was the first year anyone invited to audition was eliminated.
Von Kappel, 15, was one of the top finishers of the contest last year, but she said she was anxious after being told not everyone would be selected this year.
“I got really nervous, I was like ‘but everyone here is so good, I don’t know if I’ll make it this year,’” she said. “But then when they announced the spots … I was completely thrilled.”
Fairfax said having a narrower field of performers after the contest will allow music festival volunteers to work with the teenagers before they hit the stage in September. She said there will be practice sessions to hone their technique and stage presence and help with song selection.
Each winner will perform a 12-minute set starting at noon, Saturday Sept. 2 in front of Whidbey Coffee on Pioneer Way. The teenagers played guitar, the ukulele and keyboard and sang a variety of genres.
Von Kappel hopes to incorporate guitar, ukulele and piano in her short set, she said. She also hopes to perform an original song.
Atienza, 15, said during the contest he had written his song that morning and on the way to the Oak Harbor Library, where the auditions were held, according to a press release. He impressed judges with his “from-the-heart songwriting, clear voice and tight rhythms on the uke,” the release states.
Black and Partridge, 18 and 17 respectively, were the only group act selected. Judges noted their “tight harmonies and well-practiced” unison.
Amick, 17, played a show tune and classic waltz on the keyboard. Sarah Gallagher, 17, also accompanied herself on the keyboard to Adele’s “Make You Feel My Love” and Nancy Sinatra’s “Bang Bang,” the release states.
Fairfax said the festival organizers started the teen contest portion as a way to give young people the opportunity to perform a small set in front of a large crowd with professional sound engineers managing their audio.
“It’s really an exciting experience for them,” she said.
Von Kappel said last year’s performance was her first time doing a “real show” outside of a school talent show. The novelty of it originally made her nervous, but that quickly disappeared as soon as she started singing, she said. She’s going into this year’s performance with only positive vibes.
“I’m just really excited that I got to be picked,” she said. “I’m very stoked that I get to perform again.”