Move over "America's Got Talent."
From a tween classic rock cover band to a singer-songwriter earning a PhD in classical music composition, the 20 competing finalists' musical styles are as diverse as their ages -- from 8 years old to early 30s. More than 100 people tried out, says Diana Cherryholmes, the council's executive director. Finalists were judged on stage presence, musicianship, material and ability to relate to the audience.
"It's a talent contest and we want the best person to win regardless of their age," Cherryholmes says. "These are the stars of tomorrow. This is an opportunity in one night to see the best of the best that we have on Long Island."
Cassidy Paige, an 8-year-old from Huntington, plans to woo the crowd with the ballad "Reflection" from Disney's "Mulan."
"I didn't know if I would make it in and I'm overjoyed that I did," says the Michael Jackson fan.
Adara Mifsud, a 13-year-old from Dix Hills, also chose a movie ballad -- "Only Hope" from "A Walk to Remember."
"For me, it's not all about the competition," she says. "I'm just there to have fun with it because I enjoy singing in front of large crowds."
Also competing is Spare Change, a band that has performed covers of Aerosmith songs and other rock hits at benefits across Long Island.
"I'm not really nervous," says guitarist Peter Rogu, 13, of Dix Hills. "I think we're going to have a good shot at winning it," he says.
For Sheldon-Ray Murray, 21, a music business major at Five Towns College, just having the opportunity to sing is an achievement. In 2006, he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and later lost his voice.
After therapy, his brand of funk, jazz and neosoul music returned.
"I just hope that someone will pull from my performance that no matter what's going on ... that they can make it," says Murray, of Brooklyn.
Perseverance is also a trait of Heather Alicia Rose of Coram, who performs as Heda Rose. The R&B, jazz and pop singer, who declined to give her age, has been working for her big break after signing to a major label with a girl group that later disbanded.
"Sometimes you go through these experiences to encourage someone else -- 'Hey, I'm winning now, but I wasn't always winning, so you hang in there,'" she says.
AT THE SHOW
Tomorrow's finale will be judged by "It's Raining Men" singer Martha Wash, WFUV radio personality John Platt, Newsday music writer Glenn Gamboa, "Live it Up!" host Donna Drake and casting expert Donna McKenna. The grand prize winner will receive $500 cash, a $1,000 scholarship to Five Towns College and other prizes, plus the opportunity to perform at the Huntington Summer Arts Festival.
Three other distinctions will be given out -- "Audience Choice" and a pair of "Rising Star" awards by age group.
Andrea Daly, a 27-year-old singer and PhD student from Stony Brook, says the exposure at the competition is its own prize. "This is my dream," she says. "This could be an incredible step in the right direction."
INFO: 631-271-8423, huntingtonarts.org
ADMISSION: $30 ($45 reserved seating), $15 students