STEUBENVILLE — The tenth annual Valley’s Got Talent competition showcased the skilled and spirited youth from across the Ohio Valley, crowning a pianist as its overall winner Sunday night.
Catherine Englert, 15, performed “Deux Arabesques” by Claude Debussy, winning her the overall prize. Englert performed alongside a total of 24 other competitors, ranging in age from 13 to 23 and hailing from no further than 35 miles from Steubenville.
A homeschool student, Englert said she has been playing piano for seven years and has been practicing “Deux Arabesques” each day for about four months. She said winning feels “amazing.”
“This is my second time I’ve (competed in VGT), and I did not expect to win,” Englert said, swarmed by excited supporters. “Everyone was great, honestly. I just can’t believe it. It still hasn’t really set in.”
VGT 2022 overall winner and fellow pianist Jay Stoneman presented the trophy to Englert.
Bobbyjon Bauman, director of the Sycamore Youth Center and founder of VGT, said this year’s show was the best yet, with participants overall having the highest amount of talent “all the way down the line.” Bauman said the Valley’s pool of talent has only grown over the years, becoming so large that many highly talented youths were simply not able to progress beyond auditions.
Started in 2014, the VGT competition was established as “a talent show that uplifted the Lord but also involved kids (and) was open to everybody — whatever background someone comes from, as long as they sing and dance to a song that honors God.”
Bauman noted that kids ages eight to 13 may participate in the upcoming Valley’s Got Talent Kids Edition, which will take place on April 12, 2024. Bauman said more information on the kids edition, which last year received almost 600 auditions, can be found at sycamorecenter.com/vgt.
Winners of the vocal group category were Katherine Gray and Mary Rankin, who sang “Greater Than All My Regrets” by Tenth Avenue North. Second place went to the Speiro Academy High School Praise Band, which performed “Praise” by Elevation Worship.
The Wellsville High School Ebony & Ivory Choir took first place in the choir category with its rendition of “Man in the Mirror” by Michael Jackson. Coming in second was the Sycamore Classical Choir, which performed “Amazing Grace/I’ll Fly Away.”
Jasmine Lawrence won first in the miscellaneous category with her lip-sync performance of Yolanda Adams’ “Open My Heart.” JR Lawrence was the runner-up with his original song “Spiritual Feasting.”
In the dance soloist category, Shayla Terry won first place, dancing to “Footprints in the Sand” by Lucy Thomas; Kennedy Guiddy won second place, dancing to an instrumental version of “God’s Breath,” and Alexia Hayden won third place, dancing to “Depth Over Distance” by Ben Howard.
In the dance group category, coming in first were the Sycamore Folk Dancers, followed by the Speiro Academy Auxiliary Team and then Irish dancers Charity Sirilla and Lucy Wear.
First place in the vocal soloist category was Bella Thompson, who sang “Oceans” by Hillsong United. Second place was Anthony Pearce, who sang “Hanging by a Moment” by Lifehouse. Tied for third place were Sharolyn Brookes, who sang her original song “Oh Lord, You Have Searched Me and You Know Me,” and Aryiah Jones, who sang “Father, Can You Hear Me” by Tamela Mann. Also participating in the category were Maylee Rawson with “Savior’s Shadow” by Blake Shelton and Natalie Pennington with “Endless Praise” by Charity Gayle.
Pianist Shelby Elerick, who sang “Awesome God/Grave Clothes” by Rich Mullins/Maverick City Music, took first in the vocal soloist with instrument category, followed by pianist Benedict Gan, who sang “Hero” by Damascus Worship, and pianist Emiliana McCalister, who sang “Morning by Morning I Will Trust” by Pat Barrett. Also participating was guitarist Julianna Keimig with “I Am Yours” by Lauren Daigle.
Finally, pianist Emmanuel Gessler won the instrumentalist category with “Nocturne No. 1 in B-flat Minor” by Frederic Chopin. Second place was violinist Sydney Frampton with “How Great Thou Art.”
A total of $1,250 in cash prizes was given to winners, with $500 going to best overall, $75 to first place in each category, $35 to second place and $20 to third place.
An additional prize came from Bear Cline, campus pastor and fine arts director at Speiro Academy. Owner and operator of the recording studio Viceroy Productions, Cline offered two free hours of studio time to the vocal soloist and vocal soloist with instrument category winners.
Competitors were judged by a panel, made up oof Marc Barnes, president of the Harmonium Project; Charlene Dawkins, music director of Greater Zion Temple; Rick Hicks, Steubenville High School band director; Sandy Pucci, of the Led by Mercy band; Darlene Van Dyke, a contemporary Christian vocal artist, and Michelle Clum, who served as VGT’s mathematician.
Also making an appearance for special guest performances were several past VGT overall winners, including dancers Dalana Bove, VGT Kids 2023, and Lynzee Ensell, VGT 2021; Faire May, VGT 2020; Stoneman; Ashley Marina, VGT 2019; Elisha Fletcher, VGT 2014, and Brent Kimball, VGT 2017.
Sponsors for the event included Cedar One Realty, McBane Insurance & Financial Services, Nelson’s of Steubenville, Franciscan University of Steubenville and Everhart-Bove Funeral Home.