On Saturday, May 18, 2024 Asbury Park’s Got Talent celebrated it’s 5th anniversary. It took place at the Asbury Park Senior Center. The origins of the Asbury Park’s Got Talent (APGT) showcase started with Interfaith Neighbors receiving a Wells Fargo regional foundation planning grant.

Members of the youth stakeholder subcommittee expressed an interest in giving the community something positive and stimulating, as well as a platform to showcase local musical and artistic talent. Each year since then, APGT has held multiple auditions for community members with all types of talent and skills, organizing a final competition event to award the winners. 

APGT has become a truly energizing community endeavor, promoting diversity and inclusion, bringing in local singers, poets, and performers together to share a stage and compete for prizes. Prior to the showcase, there were three community auditions held at the Interfaith Neighbors launch center in February, March and April of this year. Sixteen contestants, in three different age groups, competed in the showcase. 

The Judges

APGT Judges – (L-R) Mark Gerbino, APSD Acting Superintendent and Keith Maxie, Founder of Thirsty Wolves Entertainment, tally up their scoresheets. Credit: BSB Fotography

The APGT judges included: TawHeshia Gates, City of Asbury Park Fire Official; Mark Gerbino, Asbury Park School District’s Acting Superintendent; Nicole Newman, Accenture Strategy Manager; Keith Maxie, Thirsty Wolves Entertainment’s Musical Artist; and Emmanuel Gilliam Sr., IFN Soar Graduate.

The Contestants

Aged 9 to 13 years old: Payton Britt, Suniyah Uter, Sophia Chavez Garcia, Antonella Pola, Harmonie Picado, Ian Morales, Esther Auguste, Feranmi Odeworitse, and Orlando Perez.

Aged 14 to 18 years old: Kyra Birchett, and Aleena Dunn.

Aged 19 and older: Danielle Brandon, Isaiah Richardson, Chris Rieth, Asionna Whittaker, and Rob Holla.

The Winners

Winners in each age category who competed in the final showcase were awarded the following cash prizes: First Place $500, Second Place $400, and Third Place $300.

AWARD AGE GROUP 9 – 13 AGE GROUP 14 – 18 AGE GROUP 19 and Over

An honorary mention was awarded to Rob Holla, who has been a dedicated participant in all five APGT Finale Showcases, demonstrating his unwavering passion and commitment. Five year old Nasiyah Julien received a Certificate of Participation and a knapsack filled with delightful goodies for her outstanding singing performance, and emcee Mychal Mills received a gratitude award for his five years of dedication to APGT.

Winners and Special Award recipients are pictured below:

9 – 13 Years Old

Harmonie Picado, APGT 2024 1st Place Winner, 9-13 year old age group. Credit: BSB Fotography
Payton Britt, APGT 2024 2nd Place Winner, 9-13 year old age group. Credit: BSB Fotography
Top 3 APGT Winners, 9-13 age group (L-R): 2nd place winner Payton Britt, 3rd place winner, Suniyah Uter, and 1st place winner Harmonie Picado.

14 – 18 Years Old

Aleena Dunn, APGT 2024, 14-18 age group 1st Place Winner. Credit: BSB Fotography
Kyra Birchett, APGT 2024, 14-18 age group 2nd Place Winner. Credit: BSB Fotography

19 Years & Older

Isaiah Richardson, APGT 2024, 19 and older group, 1st Place Winner. Credit: BSB Fotography
Danielle Brandon, APGT 2024, 19 and Older group, 2nd Place Winner. Credit: BSB Fotography
Asionna Whittaker, APGT 2024 19 and Older group, 3rd Place Winner. Credit: BSB Fotography

Special Awards

In a heartwarming display of talent and dedication, both young and seasoned performers alike left an indelible mark on the 2024 Asbury Park’s Got Talent Showcase.

Rob Holla was awarded an honorary mention. He has been a dedicated participant in all five APGT Finale Showcases. Credit: BSB Fotography
Diane Shelton presents 5 year old Nasiyah Julien with a Certificate of Participation and a knapsack filled with delightful goodies for her outstanding singing performance. Credit: BSB Fotography

(Above, left): Longtime participant Rob Holla continued to impress, delivering a captivating rendition of “Johnny Be Good” by Chuck Berry. In recognition of his enduring commitment to the Showcase, Rob was awarded a Special Performance Award during the announcement of the 2024 APGT winners, solidifying his place as a cherished talent in the community.

(Above, right): Five-year-old Nasiyah Julien stole the hearts of the audience with her captivating singing performance, earning herself a Certificate of Participation and a knapsack filled with delightful goodies as a token of appreciation for her contribution to the event.

(Below): The Emcee for APGT was wonderfully conducted by Mychal Miles of KYDS, who kept the positive energy flowing throughout the event. With his engaging presence, Mychal not only entertained the audience but also connected with each contestant by asking meaningful questions about their lives and performances, adding a personal touch to the showcase.

APGT’s committee member, Cheron Whittaker presenting Mychal Mills with a gratitude award for his five years of dedication to APGT. Credit: BSB Fotography

The gifted contestants showcased an array of talents, such as singing, poetry, and rapping. It was truly a sight to see and the place to be that was jam packed with supportive family, friends, and community members. The lineup also included two special guest performances by former contestant and winner, SPACE, and by APGT’s judge, Emmanuel Gilliam Sr. aka The Fresh God.

Behind the scenes, a dedicated committee worked tirelessly to bring this event to life. The team, led by Interfaith Neighbors’ Community Engagement Specialist Diane Shelton, included Nina Summerlin, Tina Kearney, Jennifer Leigh Dym, Mary Lizzaire, Karen Schwarz, Tanya Peterson, Cheron Whittaker, Joe Grillo, and SPACE, with Gregory Bouie on board as DJ for APGT, along with his brother Johnny Bouie. Everyone’s hard work and commitment were instrumental in making the fifth anniversary of APGT a resounding success, highlighting the incredible talent and community spirit of Asbury Park.

Ms. Diane Shelton sporting her new jacket that the APGT gifted her with for all her years of dedication as the Chairperson of APGT Showcase Credit: BSB Fotography
DJ for APGT, Gregory Bouie and his brother Johnny Bouie Credit: BSB Fotography

To raise money for the fifth anniversary, APGT was selected by What a Wonderful Year of Music to be one of two recipients to receive monies from the two-day fundraiser held in December at Clinch Transparent Gallery and the Wonder Bar. Other sponsors included the Central Jersey Youth Club, Telegraph Hill Records, New Jersey Natural Gas, RM foundation, Jersey Central Power and Light, then Vin Gopal Civic Association, Joe and Julie Grillo, BSB Fotography, JC Printing Solutions, Lake House Music Academy, STEMpark, the ZamirAhsaad A. Dunbar Foundation, Geoff and Jennifer Schroeder, Kerwin Webb, SPACE, Councilwoman Eileen Chapman, Chauana Taylor, Tanya Peterson, Diva’s Desserts, and the Redevelopment Group (ARIE / APHA)

APGT Performance Gallery

If you missed the enchanting showcase of Asbury Park’s gifted children, young adults, and adults, tune into the Asbury Park YouTube channel and immerse yourself in the wonder of their remarkable talents!

YouTube player

BiBiSaran Bennett, a dedicated educator, advocate, skilled photographer and writer, joins the Asbury Park Reporter as a columnist and photographer. With a background in psychology, special education, media design, and event production, she brings creativity, compassion, and a keen eye for storytelling to her reporting. As the owner of BSB Fotography, founder of ZADF and a committed community leader, she embodies a passion for uplifting her hometown of Asbury Park and illuminating the stories that matter most.

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