Young talent to shine at Hoosier Star

August 31, 2018

La PORTE – Youth is behind the mic in the Hoosier Star Youth Division, which will pit five up and coming vocal talents against one another and offer a glimpse of music’s future.

Set for competition on Sept. 8 at the La Porte Civic Auditorium, the rising stars of the region are poised and ready to win audiences over.

Molly Lenig, 15, of Rolling Prairie, has been singing as far back as she can recall. Obsessed with the Disney film, “High School Musical,” her first performances were mimicking the film’s musical numbers to her family.

“For me, music can change my mood and gives me a happy feeling inside,” she said. “When you find a song that you can relate to, sometimes you don’t realize it, but it can inspire you and make you feel better. When I’m singing and connect to a song, something just clicks and I’m an entirely different person.”

Lenig’s come a long way from performing in her living room to singing in front of a La Porte Civic Auditorium crowd with an orchestra at her back. Honored to have the opportunity, she said Hoosier Star will be a great learning and growing experience.

She will be singing “Almost There” from another Disney film, “The Princess and the Frog.”

“I chose this song because it’s about working hard to reach a goal and not letting anything stop you,” Lenig said. “I hope the audience and judges can feel my energy throughout the song and feel inspired and happy after listening to this upbeat song.”

Lenig plans to continue pursuing music and credits her voice teacher, Deanne Turim, for helping her grow and become more confident.

Maggie Cornett, 16, is a La Porte High School student who said “singing is in my blood.”

To her, music is emotion – raw emotion.

“Every genre has a different aesthetic to offer and it makes you feel so much within a short time. I want to be able to show people how I feel when I hear music,” Cornett said.

Performing in Hoosier Star is both “terrifying and thrilling” to Cornett, who’s excited for the chance to sing with the orchestra, being a violinist herself.

She will be singing “Hallelujah” in the style of Alexandra Burke.

“When I first heard this version of the song, there was so much raw talent behind it. I fell in love with the passion she had. And when I heard what the orchestra was going to sound like behind me, my eyes filled with tears. The accompaniment itself should win Hoosier Star,” she said.

When it comes to her future, Cornett definitely wants to continue singing, but is still figuring out what exactly she likes doing. In college, she plans on studying human services.

Cornett credited her family, friends, teachers and church family for helping mold her into the singer she is today. “But above all else, (I credit) the Lord who has provided this opportunity for me,” she said.

Jacob Griffin, 15, is a Westville High School student who lives in Michigan City. His earliest memory is learning “Come Sail Away” on the piano by ear and singing along.

Music helps him step out of his comfort zone.

“(Music) gives me the confidence to do things I never thought I would be able to do,” he said.

While Griffin has some experience performing in front of crowds, he’s never performed in front of a crowd like Hoosier Star.

“I’m very nervous but also excited that I have the opportunity to sing for this many people. I think the symphony will put a nice twist on the song and give it a great new sound,” he said.

Griffin will perform the song that started it all, “Come Sail Away” by Styx, and cited Dennis DeYoung – who wrote the song – as his biggest inspiration.

“I never thought I could do this. The meaning of the song is about breaking out of your comfort zone and following your dreams. This is what I am trying to do with this performance and I hope it inspires others to do the same,” Griffin said.

He thanked his parents and sister for encouraging him, his grandparents for being his biggest fans, and the rest of his extended family and friends for their support.

The final two slots in the Hoosier Star Youth Division are siblings Joseph and Afyah Giuliani of La Porte, who will have to not only beat out the rest of the competition, but their own blood.

Afyah, 14, recalls singing into a purple microphone when she was only 3 or 4 years old.

“I like the fact that music is enjoyable and calming. There is a connection with the soul that music brings. I cannot imagine a world without music,” she said.

Joseph, 13, said the Giulianis have always had music in their home and recalls singing in church when he was only 4 or 5.

“I think singing is healing and soothing. It has the ability to make you happy or sad,” he said.

Neither Afyah or Joseph have ever performed in front of such a large audience, but both are equally nervous and excited for the opportunity.

“Performing with a full orchestra is like a dream,” Afyah said.

She will be performing “Memory” from Cats, a song chosen by her mother.

“It was more challenging than my original song choice and after working on it, I actually like it. It is a sad song and a plea,” she said.

She hopes the judges and audience will feel the longing, along with the promise of hope that comes with a new day.

Joseph will be performing “Ave Maria” by Bach/Gounod, a song recommended by the Hoosier Star board as fitting his style and voice.

“I hope the audience and judges feel a peace and soothing calmness when I perform,” he said.

Both Afyah and Joseph are looking forward to the chance to compete against each other on Sept. 8.

“I am competing against my older sister who is one of my best friends. It makes me nervous because she is very talented. I support her and hope she wins. However, since I am in the competition, I plan to win,” Joseph said.

“I am competing against my younger brother who is very supportive and encouraging. We are very close and I will be happy to see him win. He has a beautiful voice and we love to sing together. At this time, though, I won’t mind beating him,” Afyah said.

Both credited their parents for pushing them daily to do their best and exposing them to good, wholesome music.

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