For the past eight years, budding performers ages 8 to 17 years old have been given the rare opportunity to take the stage and share their special talent in numerous theatres around Miami-Dade County. Young Talent Big Dreams (YTBD), a collaborative initiative of The Children’s Trust and the Actors’ Playhouse, was created to inspire kids to showcase their unique gifts and compete for a chance to win such life-changing prizes as performing arts scholarships, masterclasses and public performance opportunities at various events, including The Children’s Trust Family Expo and Champions for Children Awards ceremony. Other incentives that have both young ones and teens scrambling to sign up to audition – aside from the healthy competition, immediate sense of camaraderie, and the support, guidance and feedback of YTBD’s mentors and judges – are monetary prizes, tickets to must-see local attractions and theatre performances, and a trip to attend the Teen Choice Awards in Los Angeles!
A Caring Place to Take a Chance
The biggest payoff for the arts professionals in front of the stage coaching and advising the kids, though, is that the countywide event is totally free for all eligible participants – and that each and every competitor is transformed by their participation.
“Unlike other venues that have a cost attached, in the case of Young Talent Big Dreams, partnering with The Children’s Trust provides a wonderful opportunity for it to be free of charge and have kids experience what it’s like to be on a professional stage,” says YTBD Artistic Director and Master of Ceremonies Earl Maulding. “It’s been extremely well-received because it offers something so different and unique to the community.”
With registration now open for the 2018 auditions, which will run January 21 through April 28, the upcoming competition promises to deliver even more excitement as the bar is continually raised.
“Competitors return year after year,” notes Maulding. “Not only because they want to win, but also because of the professional help, encouragement and nurturing they get here, and the opportunity to grow.”
That makes taking home a prize secondary in Maulding’s mind. The real winning, he says, is “every time a kid steps onto the stage.” Jim Haj, president and CEO of The Children’s Trust, agrees.
“Young Talent Big Dreams is one of the initiatives nearest and dearest to our hearts,” says Haj. “First, because it gifts Miami-Dade children with a rare and invaluable outlet for expression. Second, because it cuts across every facet of our community. YTBD draws in kids and families from all walks of life, and that makes it a truly unifying event.”
Sunday, January 21, 3-6 p.m. Miracle Theatre, 280 Miracle Mile, Coral Gables, FL 33134
Sunday, February 4, 1-5 p.m. South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center, 10950 SW 211th Street, Cutler Bay, FL 33189
Sunday, February 25, 1-5 p.m. Miami Arts Studio, 15015 SW 24th Street, Miami, FL 33185
Sunday, March 4, 3-6 p.m. African Heritage Cultural Arts Center, 6161 NW 22nd Avenue, Miami, FL 33142
Saturday, March 24, 1-5 p.m. Miracle Theatre
Saturday, April 7, 1-6 p.m. Miracle Theatre
Sunday, April 8, 3-7 p.m. Miracle Theatre
Semifinal auditions will be held at the Miracle Theatre on April 21 at 7 p.m. and April 22 at 3 p.m.; finals will also take place there on Saturday, April 28, at 7 p.m.
Complete rules, forms and additional information are available at the Actors' Playhouse website.
A Rare Opportunity to Shine
For 15-year-old middle school student Jeremiel Sylne, whose one aspiration early on was to be a basketball player, YTBD afforded him more than just an outlet to display a hidden talent. After discovering a true passion for the piano after hearing someone play, he took only three weeks of lessons before entering the competition and ultimately made it to the final round.
“I started to feel shaky when I sat down at the keyboard, then the spotlight hit me and I thought, ‘This is it, no mistakes!’” He lost himself in the music, playing flawlessly... until he hit one wrong note near the end. “But I kept right on going and no one even noticed,” says Sylne, who competed in the individual musical instrument category. When he finished, “the audience was going crazy!”
As gratifying an experience as that was, he had no idea that something bigger was about to come his way. “After I finished playing in the finals, I went to sit with my sister in the audience. She introduced an older couple sitting next to her and said, ‘These people want to give you a piano.’ I was really shocked. I never expected anything like that to happen to me.”
Sylne, who later performed at the 2017 Champions for Children Awards, says he’ll be one of those who return to YTBD to compete again. “I’m always practicing and I want to get to that next level, to be even better,” he says. “I want to be the best.”
His drive comes, in part, from seeing the talent of other kids, which is unique to the YTBD competition. There is no vying by age; the youngest participants and teens battle it out together to win in nine respective talent categories, including individual pop/rock/rap vocals (no a capella), individual musical theatre/jazz standards/classical vocals (no a capella), individual musical instrument, individual dance, individual original spoken word/poetry/prose, individual original composition (vocal or instrumental), dance group, instrumental group/bands (any musical style – live acoustic or amplified – with or without live vocals) and vocal group (any musical style).
“Young Talent Big Dreams definitely gave me – and lots of other kids – an opportunity that we might not otherwise have had,” says Sylne. “For me to be able to pursue my interest in the arts and perform on a real stage, with mentors and judges who want me to be my best and win… that was a dream I didn’t even know was possible.”
A Steppingstone to Bigger Things
Angelina Green began her journey toward stardom at the age of 8, when she entered YTBD for the first time.
“I heard that it was going to be something new and exciting, and there was more than just singing involved,” says Green, now 13 years old. “I knew I had to push myself and put myself out there.” Singing even before she could walk or talk, she started taking voice lessons to help her through difficulties she was facing at home.
“Whenever I had a bad day, singing gave me something to look forward to. It took me to another place and helped me cope with everything,” shares Green.
Her first tryout at YTBD left a lasting impression. “It was a really good audition for me,” she recalls. “The mentors gave me feedback and helped me to the next round, so I was even better the next time I was on stage.” Green, who learned how to connect with the audience and improve her performance skills, took that knowledge and ran with it. Four years later, she entered again and was declared the winner in the Individual Vocal – Pop/Rock/Rap category.
“It was crazy! I watched a recording of the finals afterward, and I know I wouldn’t have been able to pick out who should win if I had been a judge,” she says. “Even in the same category, everybody brings something different to the table.”
Green’s rising star soon became even more visible, shining brightly as she ventured onto the national stage of America’s Got Talent, an experience for which YTBD helped prepare her.
“It really got me ready to take that huge next step, because I knew how to compete against a variety of talents. The judges at Young Talent Big Dreams have always given me valuable feedback and supported me throughout the process, and I’ve held onto that.”
Making it to the quarterfinals on America’s Got Talent, Green has her sights now set on a different stage.
“My dream is to play the role of Christine in Phantom of the Opera… and sing the same song I did for my Young Talent Big Dreams audition – but this time, on Broadway.”