arts and culturefeatured-art-and-cultureIssue 25

The Valley Talent Project Shows Off Local Performers


By Jacqui D. Sinarle

Our region’s seventh annual talent competition, The Valley Talent Project, gave local performers something to sing about in August—and much more!

With a new name, a diverse variety of contestants, and more prizes than ever, the two-day event showcased 28 entries competing in seven categories with acts that ranged from vocals and instrumentals to band, dance, comedy, acrobatics, and even a fire performer.

“The Valley Talent Project proves that the arts are alive and well—not just in schools and extracurricular activities, but also in homes throughout the Central Valley,” said Sarah Guadalupe Hosner, Production Coordinator for all seven of the past events.

Formerly known as Valley’s Got Talent, the competition was initiated in 2010 by the Gallo Center for the Arts and all performers are required to reside within the Stanislaus, Merced, Tuolumne, Calaveras, Mariposa, and San Joaquin counties. This year’s event was co-presented by the Gallo Center and The Modesto Bee and a grand total of $7,500 was awarded to the 2016 winners.

Top awards went to the Rykert Trio opera vocalists, presented with the $1,500 E.& J. Gallo Winery Grand Prize and the Audience Favorite Award. It was the third time in the competition’s history that the grand prize winner was also the audience favorite.

Additional Winners Included:

Noah’s Spring Water Female Vocal Talent Achievement Award:
Ronnie and P.J. Rodrigues Male Vocal Talent
Achievement Award:
Joe Barretta Bradford Solo/Duet Dance
Talent Achievement Award:
The Weirdo’s Ensemble Dance
Talent Achievement Award:
Ballet Folklorico Anáhuac ATTY Instrumental
Talent Achievement Award:
Luis Contreras KHOP Specialty
Talent Achievement Award:
Acro Continuum Crystal Creamery Band
Talent Achievement Award:
Lisette and The Loudmouths ModestoView Original Composition Talent Achievement Award:
Masitsa Lubembe Paul M. Tischer Classical
Music Scholarship:
Marina John Hanna


Judges were Modesto native and Emmy- winning casting director Robert Ulrich and his actress wife, Kim Johnston- Ulrich; past Gallo Center board chair Britta Foster; Gallo family representative Chris Tyler; Gallo Repertory Company artistic director Jim Johnson; Varni Brothers Corp. President Tony Varni; ModestoView founder Chris Murphy; KHOP-FM personality Ian Riley; and Modesto Bee editor Joe Kieta. The program was emceed by Aaron Raby for the seventh consecutive year.

“This year we increased the amount of awards and split the dance and vocal categories, providing more opportunities for contestants and making judging a little easier,” Hosner said. “Also, Chris Murphy sponsored the ModestoView Original Composition Talent Achievement Award, which has been long overdue. And this year’s finale featured the dancers from all seven years of the program, including Tiffany Li, our 2010 second prize winner from The California Ballroom Duet.”

While not everyone has the “it factor” or the insane motivation and determination that it takes to succeed in the entertainment industry, TVTP serves to validate contestants’ dreams of performing. It has also been the launching pad for several local artists, including Lindsay Pearce, Ryan Maharaj, Alida McKeon, and Drew Monson, to name just a few.

TVTP also inspired the creation of two new talent events, the Spanish Language Talento Vivo en el Valle and the ModestoView Clean Comedy Competition. Winners of those events, held earlier in 2016, were selected to compete in TVTP.

If you’re interested in performing in TVTP next year, Hosner offered these tips.

“First, ‘Like’ the Gallo Center for the Arts and The Valley Talent Project Facebook pages to stay informed of when the application window opens in the first week of April with the application deadline in May,” Hosner suggested.


“Second, hone your skill, whatever it is, at the various open mic nights at the Queen Bean, which is open to all ages, or the Clarion, or other venues,” Hosner continued. “ModestoView lists them all in the back section of the paper.”

“The more experience you have performing with an audience, the better you know what works and what doesn’t, be it an original song, a cover, or whatever,” Hosner advised. “Work your craft, even if it’s just in your bathroom mirror.”

Local Success Stories

Some of the most talented and dedicated local performers have gone on to enjoy successful careers after participating in The Valley Tal-ent Project and its predecessors.

“A freight train couldn’t stop Linsday Pearce, winner of the first grand prize, from her per-formance goals,” observed Sarah Guadalupe Hosner, TVTP Production Coordinator. “Val-ley’s Got Talent was merely a stepping stone for her to be seen by the right guy, at the right time in both of their lives.”

“I’m proud to say that Bollywood dancer Ryan Maharaj, who started in an internship with Robert Ulrich, is now working at Kim Coleman Casting in Hollywood,” Hosner continued. “And multitalented Alida McKeon started off singing backup vocals and playing the steel drum in a band at 13 in 2012, came back to sing the national anthem a cappella in a duet, lead her own band and perform as lead steel drum player in another band in 2013, then returned to win the grand prize in 2014 sing-ing jazz and accompanying herself on piano. She is now in her second year at The Berkelee School of Music studying in Spain.”

This year, two awards were given to musi-cians who had never had one lesson but were self-taught.

“They both won money that will pay for their tuitions at Modesto Junior College this year,” Hosner reported. “Another singer who didn’t win anything this year left such an impact on one of the judges that he decided to award her personally with a $750 check to help with her college expenses and to encourage her to keep working on her art.”

“I have stories like these that I can tell all day long with great pride,” said Hosner. “I’m not saying that the program is responsible for all of their successes, but it gave these local artists an opportunity to work at their art, to grow, and to succeed.”

For information about 2017’s TVTP, visit

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