Parenting Our Children

Young Talent Big Dreams

Published Friday, March 04, 2016

Miami stars in the making are taking to the stage!

Written by Debra Michals

Calling all kids with songs in their heart and dance in their soul – it’s time to get ready for Young Talent Big Dreams, the free performing arts competition open to all Miami-Dade County residents ages 8 to 17.  The event, a collaborative effort presented by The Children’s Trust and organized by the Actors’ Playhouse, offers area children and youth the chance to showcase their talents on a genuine stage before an appreciative audience, while helping to boost their self-confidence and skill level at the same time.

Young Talent Big Dreams“We see a wide range of children at the auditions, from those with years of training to those who have never competed before,” says Brooke Noble, spokesperson for the Actors’ Playhouse. “If you have talent, you have talent.”

Children compete in one of six categories: pop/rock/rap vocals; musical theatre/jazz standards/classical vocals; dance; musical instrument; original spoken word; and original vocal and/or instrumental composition. Groups of six or less can compete in dance, musical instrumental and band/vocal categories. The Children’s Trust sponsors the event to promote the arts at a time when such programs are vanishing from schools, and to give every child a chance to realize their full artistic potential – and dreams – regardless of income or access to professional coaches.

Prizes range from tickets to local shows and events to arts scholarships, cash and much more. For the third year in a row, the grand prize winner will receive a free trip, including airfare, hotel and passes for two, to attend the live finale of American Idol, courtesy of WSVN Channel 7, along with $500 in cash.

But even children who don’t win feel like winners, says Tara Turner, whose daughter Alecsys didn’t place the first time she tried out, but who came back last year to win the vocals category.

“I’m very appreciative of the advice they offered my daughter,” says Turner. “It gave her experience with judging and critiques, and a tougher skin regarding competition.”

Judges are local arts professionals who are especially sensitive to what it takes to perform on stage.

“We don’t have any Simon Cowells,” agrees Noble, noting that the preliminary auditions are closed to the public – only judges and staff attend. “Our judges give positive feedback to the kids to help them improve their performances.”

Choosing the right piece for auditions is key, especially since each performer gets just 60 seconds for the preliminary auditions, and two minutes for the semifinal and final rounds. What’s more, what they choose to perform is what they’ll continue with all the way into the finals, “so it’s important that the piece selected best showcases their talents,” says Noble.

For vocalists, for example, that could mean a short segment of a song where their abilities really shine through.

About five acts per category advance from the preliminary auditions to the semifinals. The semifinal and final round shows – each around two hours long – are open to the public. Children who don’t win the first time around are encouraged to come back and try again. Alecsys Proctor-Turner, now 17 and a senior at Killian High School – first auditioned when she was in middle school.

“It was great to come back and show my growth,” says Proctor-Turner. “The first time I wasn’t trained as much and I was just figuring out that I liked musical theater, so being in Young Talent Big Dreams really helped me.”

It also set her on a path to take part in more competitions afterward.

“It’s really professional, like what you’d expect to find on Broadway, and I made some really good friends. We follow each other on social media,” Proctor-Turner adds.

The only condition for returning performers: they cannot compete in any category where they were previously a winner. Biana Pinchuk, now 13 and in seventh grade at Miami Arts Charter School, won the vocals category when she was just 8 years old, and returned last year to win in the individual musical instrument category (playing the violin) at age 12.

“The first time I was nervous, and I was shocked when I won because I was only 8 and there were all these really talented 17-year-olds who performed,” recalls Pinchuk. “The second time, I didn’t think I’d win because I’d won before, so when they called my name I thought it was a mistake. I figured I’d go, have fun and eat cake – I never thought I’d win again.”

Without question, the competition can open doors for careers in the performing arts. Some former winners have had opportunities with national dance companies such as Alvin Ailey in New York, and others have performed throughout the Miami area. Proctor-Turner, who has won several competitions, was recently accepted to the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston. She also has her own foundation – Brown Eyed Lullabies (, where she sings and reads bedtime stories to children, especially those who may be alone in a hospital or away from the comforts of home.

Pinchuk performs at private events, charities, and opened for George Benson last year, says her father, Paul Pinchuk.

“She sings 200 pieces of music in six languages, has won contests in Italy and Singapore, and was a finalist for Annie on Broadway,” he adds. “It all started with Young Talent Big Dreams.


Young Talent Big Dreams: When to go & What to Know

Preliminary Audition Dates

Young Talent Big Dreams: When to go & What to KnowTo try out, register for and attend one of the audition dates below. Each act gets 60 seconds for its preliminary audition, and two minutes for the semifinal and final round performances. For official contest rules and to register, visit

Saturday, March 5, 2016, noon-6 p.m.
African Heritage Cultural Arts Center
6161 NW 22nd Avenue, Miami

Sunday, March 13, 2016, noon-6 p.m.
South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center
10950 SW 211th Street, Cutler Bay

Saturday, April 2, 2016, noon-6 p.m.
African Heritage Cultural Arts Center
6161 NW 22nd Avenue, Miami

Saturday, April 9, 2016, 1-7 p.m.
Miracle Theatre, 280 Miracle Mile, Coral Gables
Sunday, April 10, 2016, 2:30-7 p.m.

Miracle Theatre, 280 Miracle Mile, Coral Gables
Sunday, April 17, 2016, 2:30-7 p.m.
Miracle Theatre, 280 Miracle Mile, Coral Gables

Semifinal auditions will be held at the Miracle Theatre on April 30 at 7 p.m. and May 1 at 3 p.m. The finals are set for May 7 at 7 p.m.


Performers’ Checklist

Here’s what you’ll need to bring to the audition, as well as some important FYIs:

  • Copy of your completed application (even if you already submitted it online)
  • Proof of age (birth certificate, passport, etc.; performers must be at least 8 years old at the time of their first audition, and no more than 17 years old on May 7, 2016)
  • Proof of Miami-Dade residency (valid driver’s license for performer and/or parent, current bill bearing your name and stated address of residence, etc.)
  • Completed permission form, signed by a parent or legal guardian
  • For original poetry/prose: a copy of your original piece for the judges
  • For original musical compositions: a copy of your original sheet music and/or a lyrics sheet for the judges
  • The name of the song that you will be singing to, dancing to or playing (there is a one-minute time limit for the preliminary round)

Please note: Performance material must remain the same should you move on from preliminaries to semifinals to finals – there are no changes allowed.

  • Please be sure that costumes, performance materials, choreography and performance style are age appropriate.
  • Individual or group vocalists must bring an accompaniment with a karaoke-type track. This can be on your phone or on a CD, iPod, iTouch or other electronic device, or accessible via a YouTube address.