WNIT seeks ‘Rising Star’

Published 11:01 am Thursday, February 20, 2014

WNIT’s "Michiana’s Rising Star 2013" finalists (from left): Dara Marquez, Matthew Smith & Kate McGowan, Brandon Williams, Caroline LaDue, Ivory West, Billy D and Joey Garcia. (Submitted photo)

WNIT’s “Michiana’s Rising Star 2013” finalists (from left): Dara Marquez, Matthew Smith & Kate McGowan, Brandon Williams, Caroline LaDue, Ivory West, Billy D and Joey Garcia. (Submitted photo)

SOUTH BEND —Amateur performers of all ages and talents have a shot at making it big with “Michana’s Rising Star 2014,” WNIT’s second annual talent competition, while helping to support public broadcasting at the same time.

Similar to popular shows like “American Idol” and “The X Factor,” “Michiana’s Rising Star 2014” provides a venue for residents of WNIT’s 22-county viewing area to compete for a grand prize and the title of “Michiana’s Rising Star.”

“We want people to know that this isn’t just a competition for young people,” said Angel Hernandez, vice president of production at WNIT. “If there are older adults who have talents that they’d like to showcase, this is their opportunity, too.”

The grand-prize winner will receive $1,000, and the second-prize winner will receive $500. Both of those competitors will also be given the opportunity to co-host an evening with Gordy Young on WNIT’s “Experience Michiana.”

The contest operates in a fashion similar to other nationwide talent search shows.

“It’s a combination of all of them—‘The Voice,’ ‘American Idol,’ ‘So You Think You Can Dance,’” Hernandez said. “It’s a great way of finding talent in the community, and there’s so much of it here!”

Contestants must first submit a CD or DVD of their act to the television station before March 28. Those acts will be reviewed by a panel of judges, and chosen acts will move on to a live audition to be held at one of four regional locations.

Those auditions will take place in mid-April and mid-May at Warsaw Community High School, The Lerner Theater in Elkhart, The Mendel Center in Benton Harbor and the Kroc Center in South Bend. A panel of judges, comprised of area arts professionals, media personnel, professional performers and local celebrities, will be on hand.

While the judges will be partially responsible for choosing five acts from each venue that will continue through to the next round, those auditions will be taped and televised, giving viewers the opportunity to vote on their favorites as well.

“We’ve been looking for more ways to get our viewers more involved,” Hernandez explained. “We want them to have more of a voice in the program.”

Based on those results, the top three from each venue will move on to the final elimination, resulting in a group of performers that Hernandez called “The Magnificent Seven.”

“This year, we’ve added some new crinkles, including a coaching session, whereby all of the seven finalists will get the advice of a coach, who will also be a part of the program,” Hernandez said.

Those seven performers will then be featured on special programs that air live during the first week of August. Again, the public will have the opportunity to weigh-in, voting on whom they believe should be Michiana’s next Rising Star. Throughout the contest, votes can be cast online or via text message, with each vote costing $5.

Organizers reason that a $5 charge per vote will enable them to recoup some of the costs associated with using a voting service provider. At the same time, the charge will discourage “ballot box stuffing.” On the other hand, the cost should be low enough that it will not prohibit authentic voters from supporting their favorite acts.

Unlike many of the nationally broadcast talent competitions, WNIT’s contest welcomes dancers, vocalists, musicians and even magicians to their competition. In fact, last year’s winner, Dara Márquez, performed using the spoken word.

“Dara was so powerful in the various dissertations that she did,” Hernandez said. “We were very much taken by that.”

Also unlike those other programs, “Michiana’s Rising Star” has a philanthropic component since the show is a fundraising vehicle for the public broadcasting station. According to Hernandez, the series was designed to replace the PBS auctions by which the station raised money in the past. The majority of the funds will be raised through sponsorships, like that of Lexus of Mishawaka—not through the voting charges.

“Last year was really terrific for us, and it accomplished a lot of great things for us,” Hernandez said. “We have high hopes for this season.”

In addition, the program is dedicated to the memory of the late Kurt Simon, a South Bend businessman and philanthropist who supported WNIT and many other charitable organizations.

The organizers of Michiana’s Rising Star 2014 are making it as easy as possible for would-be contestants to apply for the contest. All of the contest rules and considerations are detailed on WNIT’s website at www.wnit.org/risingstar and more information can also be obtained by calling the station at (574) 675-9648, extension 309.

“There are so many great performers in Michiana,” Hernandez said. “We’re hoping that a wide range of people will take advantage of this opportunity to have their talents seen on television.”