It’s not every day a live show includes performances from cloggers, comedians and an opera singer, but that’s exactly how I spent my birthday on Sunday, judging the semifinals of Oro Valley’s Got Talent. 

Exciting, to say the least, for the stage at the Gaslight Music Hall was full of performers of all ages, strutting their stuff under the bright lights, putting it all on the line for a chance to win a $1,000 novelty-sized check next month at the grand finale. 

Joining me in the illustrious judges’ booth this time is last year’s big winner, the supremely talented Carissa Corona, and 94.9 MIXfm’s Leslie Lois—both of whom are a joy to work alongside, and provide excellent feedback to our contestants. We saw 20 different acts on Sunday, each of whom performed two different sets in front of a sold-out crowd. Though each contestant put on a memorable show, the field was cut in half to form the elite group of finalists. 

While we were the most noticeable part of the elimination process, the judges are only part of the equation. The Gaslight crew installed a handy decibel reader to the front of the stage that tracked the intensity of audience applause, and used that result alongside the judges’ scores to tally up the winners.

It was a super secret formula, and I’ve taken a vow to share nothing more.

The result of that mad scientist-like calculation was a list of 10 names that will return to the theater Sunday, Aug. 18 to compete for the big prize.

The first group included plenty of talent. A finalist from last year, singer/songwriter Lauren Lawson blew us away with her voice and maturity. Comedian Gordy Rutman had everyone laughing, from child to retiree. I’m still personally convinced that singer Kat Russo is actually a recording artist. Young Lila Poore was more than willing to bring the house down with her infectious energy and singing. And KileyJae took our breath away with her powerful voice.

Not to be outdone, the second group of semifinalists was just as impressive as the first. Clogging her way into our hears, Katie Popiel was more than willing to show off her impressive talent. Singer Darwin Hall filled the room with his rich timbre. Singer, guitarist and pianist Hannah Eblen defied her age with a talent many adults would envy. Mia Ferguson took over other artists’ music with her lovely voice. And to wrap things up, opera singer Erin Garrett absolutely blew the roof off—and moistened a few eyes.

It’s impossible to know who the winner will be. I guess you’ll just have to get a ticket to the finale.


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