ST. GEORGE — The stage at Dixie State University’s M.K. Cox Performing Arts Center was brought to life Thursday evening as 20 contestants in the “Dixie’s Got Talent” competition set out to vie for the top honors.
Competitors in two categories – youth and adult – showcased a variety of talents that ranged from dance to vocals and bands to comedy, all in an effort to raise funds for needs-based and alumni scholarships.
Thursday’s event marked the 11th year the competition – which was the dream and vision of DSU’s Dean of Students Del Beatty – has taken place.
Presented by the DSU Alumni Association, the annual talent show began in fall of 2020 with an open round of video submission auditions. From that open round, approximately half of the acts were invited to call-backs after which the top 20 – 10 in each category – were chosen to perform in front of a live audience in Thursday’s finale.
This year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, in-person seating was limited so the event was also streamed live on YouTube.
Contestants were scored both by a panel of professional judges as well as by audience votes. Fifty percent of the contestant’s score came from the judges and 50% was through audience voting. This year, instead of just votes, the audience was asked to vote with their pocketbook. Contestants who raised the most funds through audience donations received the highest audience score.
Awards were given to one runner-up and one winner in each category, with the runners-up each receiving a cash prize of $250 and the winners each receiving a cash prize of $500. Additionally, each runner-up and winner are given the opportunity to audition for the NBC reality show “America’s Got Talent.”
Last year’s runner-up in the youth division Drue Allred announced Thursday evening that she was accepted on the reality show, which will return to the air this spring.
This year’s runner-up in the adult category was Jenna Finch, who thrilled the audience with her cover of “Glitter in the Air” by pop singer Pink. Finch had originally planned to sing a different song and changed it about a week prior to the finale, she said. It was a choice that she said was worth it, adding that the entire experience was wonderful.
“The best part was probably the people,” Finch said.
Runners-up in the youth category was awarded to a trio of cousins, Madalynn, Tayler and Alivia Green, who said they have been singing together for as long as they can remember – they just never imagined they would be doing it on the Dixie’s Got Talent stage.
The three girls sang an original song titled, “Time Capsule,” which they wrote and harmonized together.
“It was amazing. I was really thankful that we were able to have this experience,” Taylor Green said.
The winner of the adult category Karley Garrett showcased her strong vocal range with a pure rendition of “Never Enough” from the movie musical, “The Greatest Showman.”
Garrett said that in both audition rounds she had chosen songs that were more 1980s inspired, but for the finale she – with the encouragement of her vocal coaches – decided to return to her musical theater roots.
The choice ended up being a good one as she walked away with a $500 prize and top honors in the competition.
“I’m feeling really ecstatic right now,” she said just after her win.
The night, however, belonged to the youth winner, 10-year-old pianist Trevyn Karkula whose comedy-infused performance of Chopin’s Waltz in D-flat major, also known as the “Minute Waltz,” was right on key.
Karkula played the classical piece on a grand piano and added an hour-glass timer to prove to the audience he could indeed play the piece in one minute. When the timer ran out he put his finger to his lips to the audience, flipped the timer and continued playing.
Of his song selection, Karkula said he learned it a little while ago and his mom thought it would be funny if he played it and used the timer.
When asked about what he planned to do with his winnings, Karkula said he planned to put it in savings.
While the night was great for competitors, it was even better for the event’s cause, which is to raise money for needs-based and alumni scholarships.
Beatty said over the 11 years of the competition, tens of thousands of dollars have been raised that have allowed students, who would otherwise not be able to attend college, to get an education and chase their dreams.
Donations to Thursdays competition raised $17,152. With the addition of ticket sales, Alumni Director John Bowler said they were able to raise nearly $20,000.
“It’s an exciting time,” Bowler said.
Beatty, who has been the show’s director and producer for 11 years, announced Thursday evening that he will be stepping down from his leadership role in the program to concentrate solely on his job as dean of students. Beatty was given a surprise award and honors during the event.
While he will still be involved in some capacity, Beatty said he is excited about the partnerships they have created and the competition’s future.
“It’s been a fun journey,” he said, adding that providing scholarships to students has been one of the best parts of the entire process.
That and working with the talent in Southern Utah, he said.
In parting, Beatty said that he hopes anyone who has a talent to share will audition for the competition in years to come.
“Don’t be afraid. Those who have talents, come out and really share them,” Beatty said.
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