Video preview of Morristown’s Got Talent 2015
By Michael Leavy
Some things are poorly named, but Morristown’s Got Talent isn’t one of them.
The finalists gave a pretty fair preview over the weekend for Media Day, polishing their acts at Morristown High School for the main event on Feb. 25, 2015, at the Mayo Performing Arts Center.
Last year’s show raised more than $70,000 for the Morris Educational Foundation. This year’s eighth annual edition will feature new prize categories — age 18 and under and age 19 and over, to be selected by celebrity judges, and a winner to be chosen by audience text messages at the show.
In keeping with the 2015 “Powered by You” theme, the public also will be invited to determine show details via #MGT on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
As a bonus, Tara Bernie of Access Hollywood is back for her second year as emcee.
Winners will share $2,500 in prize money. The contest is open to anyone who lives, works or studies in Morristown, Morris Township or Morris Plains, and to graduates of Morristown High School. More than 70 acts auditioned in December.
Tickets go on sale Feb. 2.
Let’s meet the 16 finalists:
Art of Play — band
The boys are returning for a second time, having performed in 2012. Domenico Randazzo, Ricky Webber, Tyler Volk and TJ Coon have added sax player Peter Bacas. They’ll present a funk medley.
MHS students all, except for Volk of Randolph, they have been playing together for about four years and have performed at Morristown’s Festival Earth, and at Harlem’s famed Apollo Theater. Later this month, they will compete in another music battle at the fabled Stone Pony in Asbury Park.
In true rock-star fashion, band members aren’t sure how their name originated; their best theory is that Ricky Webber’s sister came up with it. They’re hoping Bacas brings a little luck along with his tasty horn stylings; Peter is a longtime member of Timeless Jazz — winners of the first Morristown’s Got Talent show in 2008.
Amy Albin — vocalist
Morristown High School sophomore Amy Albin started singing publicly in 5th grade. She’s no stranger to Morristown’s Got Talent, either, having tried out three years ago.
Amy is performing A Moment Like This. “The reason I like this song is that it’s just about being in that moment, when you’re in the zone and in the spotlight and you’re owning it. It’s a moment like this, and that’s what performance and singing really is for me,” she said.
The singer’s plans for the big prize are down to earth. “I would be amazed…I’d just celebrate, maybe go out for ice cream or froyo.”
Amy has volunteered at Care One in Livingston singing holiday songs, and hopes to continue making a difference with her music.
The Lone Mass — acoustic duo
First-time entrants Adam Casadevall and Joe Beancole are performing publicly for the first time in Morristown’s Got Talent.
They came up with the name The Lone Mass as a comment on being alone in this connected society. Casadevall, an MHS graduate, and Beancole both live in Morris Plains. Casadevall works at Morristown High School and Beancole is a manager at the Morris Plains Bottle King and will be returning to school shortly.
The duo has no big plans for the prize money should it come their way — other than possibly buying more equipment for their burgeoning music career.
Photos by Bill Lescohier. Please click icon below for captions.
Anastasia Prohorova — piano
First-time contestant Anastasia has been playing piano since she was seven years old, and now teaches piano in Morristown.
The native of Russia decided to audition to inspire her students. Prohorova has performed in New York and is planning her own recital there in the near future.
While she hopes to win, her real goal is to motivate her students and share her love for music. Prohorova will play a piece by Chopin.
“I think it’s just so beautiful and irresistible,” she said. “It’s something I wanted to learn and I really love it.”
Evan Boncelet— singer
Evan Boncelet is 10 years old and attends the Sussex Avenue school, where he’s been singing solos for the last four years. He will perform When I Was Your Man by Bruno Mars.
Evan’s mother liked the song, so he learned the words. Evan, who is a Black Eyed Peas fan, insists that he, and not his dad, is the singer in the family. And Evan believes he will win the 2015 talent show.
“I’m really good at the song,” he explained.
Battlefest Nation— dance
One of the more unique acts in Morristown’s Got Talent is Battlefest Nation. A mix of dance and magic are involved.
Paterson natives Jovan Douglas and Tahrod “Rudeboy” Smith have been performing together for about three years. They met in college and work for an ambulance company in Morristown–Jovan said they are inspired to perform for those whose health prevents them from doing so.
They have appeared at Harlem’s Apollo Theater, winning Super Top Dogs seven times. They bring their act to schools, encouraging students to seek better opportunities.
“In our town, the killing rate is high, we want the generation after us to not follow our generation,” Smith said.
If they win, Smith said he will use some of the prize money to help his brother in Paterson buy uniforms and supplies for school.
Emmi Long and Jordan Green — acoustic vocal duo
MHS freshman Emmi Long and West Orange native Jordan Green bring a country feel to Morristown’s Got Talent.
Long has been singing her entire life, and appeared in the show when she was eight. She’s auditioned several times since then. Green has been playing guitar for years, and performs with a country-rock band that Long occasionally sings with.
The duo, which studies at Morristown’s Original Music School, will duet on Suds in a Bucket. If they win, they plan to donate the money to the American Cancer Society and Heart Songs for Veterans.
Morristown High School’s definitely got talent. Among the alumni to make the grade this year are Mike Slaff, Brian Connolly and Jake Miller-Hosely, who team with Bronx native Nando as BullShark to bring soul and funk to the show with their rendition of Let’s Get it On.
The group has played together in some capacity since high school, partnering recently with their lead singer and performing around the tri-state area.
While the band’s music is top notch, its name was inspired by terrible art — the movie Sharknado. They may in fact bring a bull shark as a prop next month.
Bottle Openers — band
Some neighbors borrow sugar and power tools. The Bottle Openers take neighborly relations to a different level.
Band members Rich Klingman, Fred Dones, Chris Bishop and Steve Chirico all live a few houses from each other in Morristown. Every Friday night they get together and make music to de-stress.
The band’s name is derived from the other thing they do at their Friday jam sessions. Like many of the bands, they’ll put any prize money into equipment.
Ally Are — poetry reading
South Orange native Ally Are brings the spoken word and a passion for writing to MGT this year. Her poem deals with how teenaged women view themselves.
She wrote the poem a few months ago and put in on her YouTube channel, as a positive message for other young women struggling with identity issues.
Ally works at a car dealership in Morristown, but is passionate about writing and would use her winnings to study screenwriting at the New York Film Academy.
FAB 3— singing
Siblings Sofia, Arthur and Isabella Wawrzyniak have been singing for as long as they can remember; they will perform Some Nights a capella in the competition.
Sofia is a seventh-grader at Frelinghuysen Middle School; Arthur and Isabella, who are twins, go to the Sussex Avenue School.
The trio finished third in the 2013 MGT, and perform outside of school in theater productions. If they win this year, they too will go out for frozen yogurt and donate some of the winnings to their schools.
Photos by Kevin Coughlin. Please click icon below for captions.
Amy and Julia Bozza— singing duet
“When your 13-year-old daughter asks you to do something with her, you say yes immediately,” said Amy Bozza, an MHS grad.
And so began the mother-daughter duet in this years’ show. Daughter Julia, a student who performs in plays at Frelinghuysen Middle School, refused to give up after two previous auditions fell short.
Amy works in the Morris School district, teaches piano and directs the plays at Frelinghuysen. The duo is doing the song Try by Colbie Caillat.
“It’s about girls feeling there’s pressure from society to behave and look a certain way,” Amy said, “and the song tells them they don’t have to, and we thought it would translate well as a duet where Julia would sing the parts about feeling insecure and not fitting in, and I would sing the parts reassuring her.”
Joe Sodano — whistling
The American Goldfinch may be New Jersey’s state bird. But if Morristown had one, it might be Joe Sodano.
A second-place finisher in 2010, Sodano brings his whistling back to the Mayo stage. He’s been whistling since he was four years old by mimicking birds outside his house.
He started competing in 2004 at a whistling convention in Louisburg, North Carolina. He was featured in a 2005 whistling documentary called Pucker Up. The Morristown native spends his days working in his family’s poultry business; he’s incorporated bird sounds he hears every day into his performance of Can Can.
Joe’s credits range from The Tonight Show to area nursing homes.
Grace Flanagan — singing/piano
The third audition was the charm for Grace Flanagan, who will perform Gonna Get Over You.
The 13-year-old student at Morris Plains Borough School owes her singing career to a broken thumb in fourth grade. The injury slowed her from practicing piano.
Rather than shelving music, she focused on her voice while her thumb healed. While she hopes for a career in music, Flanagan also is thinking about pursuing nursing.
Allison Gogarty — singer
Morristown resident Allison Gogarty sings What I Did for Love, which is appropriate, as it has sentimental value to her husband; the song reminds him of his father.
A few months ago, the new mom started taking voice lessons and learned the song to sing for her husband.
He encouraged her to enter the contest. Gogarty had sung in college and is going to start singing in church.
SteppingSTONE — band
No reason to let students have all the fun. Morris School District music teacher Brad Marullo plays guitar and sings in SteppingSTONE with Ryan Shutz, Eric Schaberg, Jonathan Presnell and Bill Fajvan.
Together for about three years, they play a combination of original and cover tunes. At MGT, they will sing Get Back Up Again, which they wrote when some members had lost jobs and were struggling to rebound.
While Marullo is excited to play, he’s also proud to see several of his students and former students from the Thomas Jefferson and Sussex Avenue schools competing against him in this year’s show.
And they should be proud, too. Their teacher has made the cut for a second time, after a prior appearance as a solo finalist.