Some of these fine folks started the Application process before last Christmas. Snow storms, ice storms and bitterly cold weather delayed the Auditions and wreaked havoc on the original event schedule; but, despite one of Mother Nature’s worst winters and early springs in recent memory, through perseverance and hard work and shear talent, nearly 200 original applicants have been narrowed down to a magical Final Twelve! It is with great pleasure that Event Organizers introduce the Finalists for the Saturday, May 3rd, event [in no particular order]:
Shawn Nakia (Singer) – Shawn, from Frederick, Maryland, has been seen at theatres throughout the tri-state region, as well as Las Vegas and Los Angeles. He has a long list of stage credits to his name; and, some of his most memorable include: “Nunsense,” “A-men,” “Peter Pan,” “The Full Monty,” “Shrek: the Musical,” and, “Little Shop of Horrors.” Shawn is also a featured singer for the annual Little Song, Little Dance AIDS Benefit and has been a part of the Miss America Scholarship Organization at the state level for 20 years. For his “real” job, he is a project manager for a Herman Miller Furniture dealership in the Maryland/DC/Virginia area.
The Travelin Hillbillies (4-Member Band) – The group is from the Harrisonburg, Virginia, area, and is composed of Ryan Garst, Daniel Barnett, Shay Garst and Walker Turner. Mixing the sounds of blues, bluegrass, country, rockabilly and a little bit of rock, Ryan is the songwriter of the group with nearly one hundred songs to his credit. “My heart and soul lies in Virginia with my band.” His brother, Shay, has been playing music since he was 10 years old, and says, “I’m a very outgoing, optimistic person always looking to live life to the fullest.” Daniel is part of his family’s gunsmith business as well as a talented musician. “I couldn’t ask for a better group of guys to share my love of playing and creating music with.” Walker, a student at James Madison University, states that he began playing guitar at an early age while hanging out in the fields with the cows. He began with The Travelin Hillbillies about six months ago and is the latest addition to the group.
Nicole Michael (Hip Hop Dancer) – Nicole is from Charlotte, North Carolina, but she is currently living locally as a student at Shenandoah University. Nicole has been dancing for more than seventeen years, beginning her dance career at age four. She has studied and danced in various styles of jazz, lyrical, hip-hop, modern, contemporary, African, tap and ballet. Nicole is currently studying to receive her Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Dance. “If I were to win the “Apple Blossom’s Got Talent!” show, I would use the $5000 to further my studies,” says the education-minded Nicole.
Patrina Thomas (Singer) – Patrina is a mother of two from Middletown, Virginia, who loves to sing, dance, write poetry, draw, cook and spend time with her two little boys. She has been singing since she was six years old in church choirs, talent shows, and other shows up and down the East coast. “God has blessed me with this talent, and I plan on giving this gift back to Him by sharing it with the world.”
Jackie Stem (Singer) – Jackie is a musician and singer-songwriter from Winchester, Virginia, who was born into a Navy family in San Diego, California, but did the lion’s share of her growing up in Virginia. By day, she is an elementary school music teacher. In the evening, she is an “open-mike frequenter,” an occasional performing musician, and a recording artist. She has written and recorded one album titled “Streams of Consciousness,” released in 2009 and is currently working on a second.
Heather Gayle (Singer) – Born in Leesburg, Virginia, Heather is now from Hedgesville, West Virginia, and is currently attending Berkley College of Music, majoring in Music Business. She is classically trained in vocals, plays the piano and drums, and enjoys dance, choreography and songwriting. Heather says if she is lucky enough to win the “Apple Blossom’s Got Talent!” competition, her prize money will go toward her tuition. “The two minutes that I had on stage was the greatest experience! Performing has always been the most exciting part of my career and to be received well by the judges and the audience is an incredible feeling.”
Michael Gremillion (Singer) – Michael has lived in the Winchester, Virginia, area fourteen years, moving here from music-obsessed New Orleans, Louisiana. He graduated from John Handley High School in 1999 and joined the Air Force following graduation. “I sing a lot of karaoke around town, mostly to have fun, and to entertain people. I love making people smile and see them dancing when I sing!”
Alexandra Borden (Freestyle Hula Hoop) – “Lexi” is twelve years old and lives in Stephens City, Virginia. Her passion is hula-hooping and reading; but, in her spare time she also likes to swim, camp with her family and prank her 14-year-old sister. She has had six years of dance lessons beginning at the age of three and participates in track and the color guard at her school. She says she would love to learn to sing, learn gymnastics and acrobatics. “Besides performing, what I’ve enjoyed most of all with “Apple Blossom’s Got Talent!” is being backstage and getting to know the other contestants and learn about their talents.”
Amanda Ortiz (Singer) – Amanda is now living in Winchester, Virginia, and is 22 years old, and says she started singing from the moment she could speak. At age 10, she was diagnosed with Type I Juvenile Diabetes, which began her life-long battle to remain healthy. “My love of music and performing was and still is my escape from dealing with illness.” She attended Salem High School’s Visual and Performing Arts Academy in Virginia Beach, majoring in theatre and vocal music. As a student there, she had opportunities to perform at many places, including the White House and Lincoln Center. “I am so thankful for the opportunity “Apple Blossom’s Got Talent!” has given me.”
Pam and Steve Springer (Swing Dance) – Pam and Steve are from Hagerstown, Maryland, and have been dancing together as a couple since 2000. They have a passion for a type of swing dancing called Old School Lindy Hop, which originated in the 1930’s in Harlem, New York. They have literally danced all over the world. They actually stopped foot traffic on the St. Charles Bridge in Prague, Czechoslovakia, for three minutes while they danced to a jazz band in the middle of the bridge. They have also enjoyed dancing for the WWII Veterans who visit the WWII Memorial in Washington, D.C. “It is such a rush when you know that your hard work and practice has elevated you to such a level that other dancers stop and just watch.”
Patsy Godley (Singer) – Patsy, from Fredericksburg, Virginia, tells us that “living to 61 makes it very difficult to write a short bio about myself, so I will try to stick with what I am about musically and why singing means so much to me.” She references the chorus of a song, sung by Harry Chapin, “Mr. Tanner,” that describes a man by saying that music was not his livelihood…..it was his life. “It made him feel so happy and it made him feel so good. He sang from his heart and he sang from his soul. He did not know how well he sang, it just made him whole.” Patsy says that pretty much sums up what singing means to her. She has a band (Patsy and the Country Classics) that she loves. Creating the band was to play the music they love and to bring people joy. Making the band’s first CD was to fulfill a bucket list item and to leave a legacy.
The Doahnamics Saxophone Quartet (4-Member Band) – From Winchester, Virginia, the Doahnamics Saxophone Quartet is the new, dynamic saxophone quartet of the Shenandoah Valley. The group met through the saxophone studio at Shenandoah Conservatory and consists of Doctor of Musical Arts candidate, Nessyah Gallagher; sophomore Jonathan Mills; and, freshmen Tyler Harvey and Joey Speranzo. Each member of the quartet brings unique specialties and tastes, and thus Doahnamics performs a diverse repertoire, ranging from baroque and classical, to ragtime and jazz, to rock, popular, and contemporary genres. “We are thrilled to be a part of the “Apple Blossom’s Got Talent!” competition.”
The fabulous, Vegas-styled Finals of the 4-month long “Apple Blossom’s Got Talent!” phenomenon will be Saturday night, May 3rd, from 8:00pm to midnight. In addition to the talent listed above, Festival celebrities from Landau Murphy to “Big Bill” Walton will be on hand. The VIP Section for this event is nearly sold out; but, there are still regularly-priced tickets for sale; and, there are no bad seats at the Sprint Festival Event Tent with its gently sloping, amphitheater-style floor and its state-of-the-art, big-screen, in-house video system. Remember, friends: the final winners are chosen by the popular vote of the attendees. Come and support your favorites!!!