Dakota Alessandrini is a 17 year old from Crown Point, Indiana. She has been dancing since she was three years old. When she was 6, she began to formally study dance and take lessons at the Indiana Ballet Theatre. Since that time, she has been involved with numerous performances at the Indiana Ballet Theatre which included The Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, and many more. Her aspirations are to someday become involved with a dance group as either part of a college ballet troupe or as a member of a professional company. If she wins the competition, she would use the money to help pay for the many dance endeavors in college and after she graduates.
Morgan Ashley was humming melodies as a form of communication even before she could talk. Music was always a part of her. In grade school, she performed various roles in musicals such as Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables, Anne of Green Gables, and The Wiz. In 2013, on a whim, she entered a karaoke contest and took first place. Morgan discovered how powerful her love for music and entertaining was and followed her heart with a move to Chicago. It was there that Morgan joined her first band, The Stingers. The band performs covers all around the Chicagoland area. She started taking every opportunity to get herself recognized in the music community. Recently, Morgan has been working on writing her own original music and just finished recording her first single, 'Set Her Free.” Having had little or no formal training, she has relied on her natural ability in music up to this point. If she were to win this competition, she would use the money to continue to develop the professional tools she needs to take her musical career to the next level and to promote the growth of her original music project, Morgan Station.
Vonzell Byrd of Chicago, Illinois, is a professional touring dancer and an Advance Apprentice/Male Dance Captain of Move Me Soul Dance Company. He started dancing in his living room to Michael Jackson's hit song, “Thriller.” Following a high school basketball career, he began dancing with the After School Matters Program, “Move Me Soul” in 2011. He spent four years with them and choreographed three of their company pieces. He also trained with artist, Joel Hall. He has had additional training in contemporary jazz, ballet, modern, West and South African, and hip hop/break dancing. Vonzell was able to audition a piece he choreographed to the Dwayne Wade Chicago Got Talent and was the one dancer to make it to the finals. In 2014 he traveled to New York for a 2 week dance program at Columbia and auditioned for the FOX TV show “Empire.” He was hired as an extra. In 2015, he traveled to Jamaica, Kingston to peform at the performing arts school, Edna Manley. If he won this competition, he would donate half of the award to the After School Matters organization. Vonzell would use the other half to save money with the intention of furthering his education in the arts.
Andrew Johnston has been singing since the age of four, but really discovered his talent in his freshman year of high school in Kankakee County where he currently resides. He signed up to sing “Me and Mrs. Jones” for the high school talent show. After receiving a standing ovation from the entire student body, Andrew decided that he was born to sing. Since then, Andrew has gone on to perform at a variety of venues and competitions in the Chicagoland area. He continues to look for new opportunities to learn and grow and is excited for what his future holds. If he were to win the competition he would like to purchase live performance equipment and work toward the formation of a band. Andrew wants to work on his appearance as well and would use some of the money for a gym membership in order to stay healthy and in good shape to perform.
Claudia Mintz is 17 years old and a passionate singer and songwriter. Her lyrics come from her heart and her music comes from her soul. She is young and authentic and very original. Her voice is raw and gritty. Her style and attitude is spunky. Claudia's songwriting is soulful. She has written around 100 songs and that number only continues to grow. She is always looking for as many performance opportunities as possible because the stage is where she comes alive. If she won the competition, she would use the money to apply to the recording of her music in order to have a library of her own compositions.
Josey Omokheyeke was born in Houston, Texas and is 22. She started performing at a young age singing, dancing, and putting on little concerts for her family and friends. Some of Josey's musical influences are India Arie, Whitney Houston, Adele, Pink, Lauryn Hill, Michael Jackson, and Stevie Wonder. Josey began to sing and perform in church plays, school choirs, and musicals at community theatres. She wrote her first song at 10 years of age and started playing guitar. Some of her credits include”13”, “Shreck the Musical”, “Bye Bye Birdie”, “Les Miserables”, and “White Christmas.” She has also performed at many of the area's open mics such as The Elbo Room, Reggies, and The Metro. Josey has performed and written with Shaun Mullins and sang for Bernie Sanders and Jesse Jackson for Operation Push. While at Columbia College she was a vocalist in four of the showcase ensembles, and has been selected to perform in the commencement choir. She's one of two students chosen to study abroad in Germany this fall. If she wins the competition, she will use the money to enhance her musical training and to find opportunities to perform after college.
Kiefer Otto has been dancing since he was 6 years old. He grew up in a small town where the only outlet for his rambunctious energy was dance. Having been diagnosed with ADD and Dyslexia, dance became more than just an art form for him. It became his language. He was the main choreopgrapher for Freeport High School musicals and show choir. While involved there, he discovered his desire for a career in the dance world and is currently pursuing a bachelor's degree at Columbia College Chicago. His major is dance with an acting minor. He has had dancing and acting roles in Delirium, Eyes and Ears, and the FOX TV show, Empire. If he were to win the competition, he would use the award to help pay for the education he needs to create a solid foundation for the future career he wants in the arts.
Tyler Nowotnik began dancing at the age of three. He received his training at Center Stage Dance Academy, Envision Dance Company, Xtreme Dance Force, Judith Svalander School of Ballet, and Lou Conte Dance Studio. He has worked with choreographers such as Amanda Anderson, Alvin Ramirez, DJ Guthrie, and Juliette Irons. Tyler has been onstage as a Russian soloist with the Moscow Ballet during their production of the Nutcracker. He and his partner were asked to perform their duet on ABC's Christmas Spectacular in Walt Disney World, Florida in 2012 and 13.His theatrical outlets found him performing in “Bye Bye Birdie”, “South Pacific”, “Fiddler on the Roof”, and “The Sound Of Music.” He believes in giving back to the community and has participated incharity events for Relay for Life, Del Webb, Court Appointed Special Advocates, and Laura Twirls Foundation. He currently teaches for Center Stage Dance Academy and Envision Dance Company, and has taught and choreographed for J & J Dance Studio. He has won many awards, titles, and scholarships throughout his career as a competative dancer. If he were to win this competition, he would use the money to fund his first full length show with his newly formed company, “The Dancepack.”
Haley Peterson was born and raised in Chicago and has developed a love of the city's culture. She started dancing when she was 7 at the Turning Point Dance Company located in the southwest suburbs of Chicago. For 10 years she has been a competitive dancer and now helps teach and mentor younger dancers. Sharing her love of dance allows her to spread the passion and knowledge she has to other aspiring dancers. She has also participated in summer programs outside of Illinois. Branson, Missouri and Los Angeles, California are two of the places where she was able to experience commercial dancing and show business. She hopes to take additional dance classes in Chicago and eventually perform professionally. If she wins the competition, she will use the money to continue her professional dance training.