SGA’s first annual “East’s Got Talent” results in success

Devon Braunstein ('10)/ Eastside Managing Editor

Despite the small spelling error on a hallway sign promoting “East’s Got ‘Tale´t,” Student Government’s first annual “East’s Got Talent” competition yielded success.

Friday, October 23, in East’s auditorium, nine acts lined up backstage ready to display their various talents to faculty judges Joanne Long, Anne Tiroke and CJ Davis.

“The energy backstage is ecstatic,” said East Vice President Dov Halevy (’10) prior to the show’s commencement.

Hosts Justin Henderson (’10) and Manmeet Singh (’10) kicked off the show with a few comical lines satirizing their misspelled poster and then introduced the first performance, a Beatles tribute band called The Maintenance.

The band, clad in neon Sgt. Pepper costumes, featured Adam Heller (’13), Chris Heinze (’12), Nick Heinze (’13) and Will Armstrong (12) on guitar, bass and vocals with Shelby Keller (’12) rocking out on the drums, an aspect Tiroke complimented at the end of the performance.  The crowd went wild as The Maintenance played two Beatles songs, “Sgt. Pepper” and “Revolution.”

Singer Justin Parker (’10), accompanied by drummer Cecilia Salvino (’10), background vocalist Britney Ford (’10) and trumpet player Matt Plevinsky (’10), performed “Crazy” by Gnarls Barkley and “Hometown Glory” by Adele.  Judges agreed that Parker performed with “heart, soul, and passion.”

Next up was teacher Greg Gagliardi.  From Miley Cyrus text messages to banana peel-related injuries, Gagliardi had the audience rolling on the floor during his comedy sketch.

Following Gagliardi’s humorous performance was Romanian violinist Paul Roman (’13).  Roman played two different songs, his fast finger work and virtuosity leaving the judges “speechless.”

Closing the first act was ukulele player and singer Griffin Back (’11), who performed a mix of Michael Jackson songs, including “Man in the Mirror” and “Smooth Criminal,” blended with other songs such as “Your Body is a Wonderland” by John Mayer and “Mr. Jones” by the Counting Crows. The judges characterized his performance as “an eclectic song mix showcasing his talents,” predicting that, just as he sang in one of his songs, Back is “eventually going to be a big star.”

During intermission, guests gathered outside of the auditorium, mingling and enjoying refreshments sold by SGA.

A band composed of East teachers and staff members, cleverly named The Staff Infection, began Act Two.  The Staff Infection was composed of eight staff members: vice principal Bob Hulme on the keyboard, teacher Cecil Leonard on bass, teacher Joe Cucinotti and security staff member Bob Menta on guitars, teacher Peter Gambino on the drums and teacher Heather Frampton, guidance counselor Roberto Figueroa and former communications staff member Cindy Mucemeci on vocals, plus two faculty back-up dancers, teachers Kelly Germscheid and Jodi Rhinehart.  The band’s upbeat song choices, such as “Twist and Shout” by the Beatles, had the audience on their feet clapping to the rhythm.  Although some of the judges reacted with slight skepticism towards The Staff Infection, from the audience’s positive reaction, one can conclude the band’s success in entertaining the crowd.

Singer Brittany Lazar (’10), accompanied by keyboardist Sophia Zhao (’10) and guitarist Katie Savarin (’10), followed The Staff Infection.  The trio started out mellow, performing Taylor Swift’s “Love Story” as the audience members sang along.  In the middle of the first song, Lazar shed her fashionable red trench coat to reveal a sparkly black dress, reflecting the tone of the next set of saucy Lady Gaga songs.

Next, two expert pianists Jonathan Landa (’13) and Kevin Schwartz (’10) performed a piano battle showdown, repeatedly kicking each other off of the piano bench to show off their respective musical talent.  Though the boys simulated a musical battle, the judges agreed that both players possessed incredible talent.  Each was considered a separate contestant even though they both performed as the eighth act.

Singers Justin Singson (’10) and Katrina Hauck (’11), along with guitarist Cole Spencer (’11), closed the second act with a duet of “Pork and Beans” by Weezer.  And, just as the audience was wishing for another performance, Back returned to the stage to accompany the last act performers with his vocals and ukulele, wowing the crowd as they performed a mash up of a variety of songs, from “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey to the “Rocket Power” television show theme song.  Hauck also performed a solo version of “Don’t Trust Me” by 30H!3.

To end the show, before the judges announced the winners, the SGA officers and performers joined on the stage amidst flashing lights grooving to Audio Push’s “Teach Me How to Jerk.”

Finally, SGA president Bret Marlowe (’10) ran up to the stage to announce the winner.  Gagliardi came in third; Singson, Hauck and Spencer’s performance placed second; Back’s ukulele performance won him first place and a $100 American Express gift card, which he plans to split up and purchase gifts for the rest of the group members.  Back said he is definitely planning on participating in the show next year.

“It’s been a privilege to compete with such amazing performers,” said Back upon accepting his prize.

Overall, the first annual “East’s Got Talent” was deemed a success, as SGA sold around 340 tickets, with the proceeds benefiting the Juvenile Diabetes Fund.

“It went better than we expected, and we had high expectations,” said Singh.

Marlowe said he thinks the show paved the way for an annual event.  According to Davis, the success of “East’s Got Talent” will give SGA the opportunity to try other new events in the future, such as a possible East rendition of “So You Think You Can Dance.”  Either way, it looks like “East’s Got Talent” is here to stay.