OCPS resurrects Top Talent competition

The school district’s ‘American Idol’-style competition will feature several performers from the West Orange area.

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  • | 10:02 a.m. April 17, 2019
  • West Orange Times & Observer
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Orange County Public Schools’ county-wide student talent show is returning this year after a four-year break.

The OCPS Top Talent event will take place Saturday, April 27, at The Plaza Live, 425 N. Bumby Ave. Doors will open at 6 p.m. and the show will start ad 7 p.m. Ticket prices range from $17 to $27 depending on seating.

OCPS Top Talent showcases the creativity of students from all over Orange County. The event, organized by Foundation for OCPS, features a competition for performance arts as well as the visual arts. The performing-arts competition will feature performances from 15 finalists and two featured performances. The 15 finalists will perform in a live show and be judged by a group of celebrity judges the day of the event. The winners and honorable mentions for the visual-arts competition were selected April 17 — after press time. Those individuals will have their artwork displayed at the event, said Debi Pedraza, senior director of Foundation for OCPS.

“It’s kind of similar to a live competition like ‘American Idol’ or ‘America’s Got Talent’ — it’s that type of a show,” Pedraza said. “In both the performing arts (competition) and the visual arts (competition), folks can vote for their fan favorites.”

Pedraza said there were 113 audition submissions for the performing-arts competition and nearly 200 submissions for the visual-arts competition. In addition to judges selecting winners, the public is welcome to vote on a “fan favorite.”

Visual- and performing-arts winners as well as fan-favorite winners will receive gift cards and their schools also will receive money to fund arts programs. Proceeds raised from the event will benefit the Foundation for OCPS and provide arts enrichment for students experiencing poverty or homelessness, Pedraza said.


Eight-year-old Alexis Pirone, a second-grader at Lake Whitney Elementary, is one of the featured performers of the show. Whether it’s singing, dancing or acting, the rising triple-threat loves being on stage. She will be singing and playing the piano for her performance, and her chosen tune is Elton John’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.”

“I’ve been playing the piano for a couple of months, and I’ve been singing for … a long time,” Pirone said. “(I like piano), because it’s fun to move your fingers around on it. … It’s fun to play different songs, because if you don’t play it correctly, you know it sounds different, (but) it’s fun to change it up and make it into your own song.”

Pirone began taking piano lessons in December, but she learned and memorized couple of songs on it months before the lessons began. Her dad, Tony, taught her how to play “Creep” by Radiohead last year so she could play the song for her mom on Mother’s Day. Her singing teacher liked it so much that she asked her to play it during a recital. After that, her dad taught her how to play “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.” She’s also beginning to learn the ukulele and, eventually, plans to learn the guitar.

“She started taking actual piano lessons in December, but she’s not a beginner piano player,” Tony Pirone said. “She plays at a fairly advanced level. … She shines when she gets up on stage.”


From left: Cailey Dotson, 15; Mia Janney, 14; and Hannah Roig, 14, make up The CHarMz dance group.
From left: Cailey Dotson, 15; Mia Janney, 14; and Hannah Roig, 14, make up The CHarMz dance group.

Hannah Roig, 14; Mia Janney, 14; and Cailey Dotson, 15, make up The CHarMz dance group. Roig and Dotson are both freshman at Windermere High School, and Janney is an eighth-grader at Bridgewater Middle School. The trio met while taking dance classes at The Right Combination Dance Studio in Winter Garden.

“We’ve all been going to this studio for four years now, and we started (dancing) trios two years ago,” Dotson said.

“We all love dancing together, so we wanted to do a (dance) group together,” Roig said, adding that they had some help choreographing the routine they’ll be performing at the show.”We had someone come in and choreography for us.” 

“It’s a jazz dance,” Janney said. “We’re really excited and just overwhelmed that we got accepted.”

Dotson added that they learned their competition dance routine last summer and have performed it previously at competitions. 

“We’re a very upbeat and fun group to watch,” she said. “We always put everything we have into (our performance).”

The Foundation for OCPS started Top Talent in 2012. In 2015, the foundation put Top Talent on pause to organize and prepare the OCPS Hall of Fame event. Moving forward, Top Talent and Hall of Fame event will alternate each year.


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