While "American Idol" and "The Voice" have found their winners -- Long Island is still searching. For the past six weeks, students ages 14-18 from the tri-state area have been facing off on MSG Varsity's "Talent Show" -- performing in hopes of getting enough votes from viewers to advance to the finals, which airs Sunday.
"We knew there were a lot of kids that were singing and dancing out there in high schools. If you are an artist, it's hard to get any exposure," says Michael Lardner, the show's executive producer. "We put them in a good situation where they can really showcase their talents. It's a very positive atmosphere."
HOW IT WORKS
The show doesn't have any judges -- the results are driven by the audience voting online after each episode in three categories: individual vocalist, vocal ensemble and dance ensemble. Four of the remaining eight acts are from Long Island. Votes can be cast online at msgvarsitytalentshow.com until Thursday at 9 a.m.
The individual vocalist winner gets a professional demo recorded complete with artwork and a photo shoot. The top vocal and dance ensembles will take part in a backstage Broadway workshop before attending a performance.
Stockert, 14, of Sayville charmed the audience in the semifinal round with her rendition of the Everly Brothers song "Bye Bye Love" landing a place in the finals. Unlike her peers, the Sayville High School freshman doesn't connect with modern music.
A Commack High School senior, Mayer performed Bryan Adams' "Straight From the Heart" on a pink ukulele in the semifinals. Inspired by singer-songwriters Gavin DeGraw and John Mayer, he's been singing since freshman year.
"This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience," Mayer, 17, says in an online video profile. "It's something I didn't expect, but I'm grateful for it. When I'm performing, I enjoy seeing the reactions of people in the crowd. I like to see people with a smile on their face, dancing around and singing along with me."
Vetrone, a senior at North Shore High School who lives in Glen Cove, landed her spot in the finals with a unique take on Elvis Presley's "Return to Sender." While she has been singing and playing piano her whole life, Vetrone, 18, just recently started performing in front of a crowd.
"I see myself pursuing this as a career. I really don't think I would want to be doing anything else," she says in her online video profile. "I'd rather be starving and making music than rich doing something that I can't get up in the morning and be happy to go to."
The B-Sharps, a vocal ensemble from Plainview-Old Bethpage JFK High School, reconstructed Bachman-Turner Overdrive's "You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet" a cappella style to make it to the final round. Dressed in their signature multicolored T-shirts, jeans and black blazers, the group sang in tight unison. They often throw in some rapping, beat box and breakdowns in their comedic routine mixed with crazy choreography.
"A cappella is a big thing at our school. It's really fun to do," says Bobby Namdar, 17, of Old Bethpage, who is completing his fourth year with the group. "We're mildly psychotic."
MSG Varsity's "Talent Show" Finals
WHEN 8 p.m. Sunday
WHERE Channel 14 (Cablevision subscribers). Episodes are also available online.