Altoona’s got talent

Students perform in annual talent show


Mia DeStefano

At the opera. Senior Luke Rokosky sings an opera piece during the talent show. His piece won first place.

Destiny Montgomery, Editor in Chief

On March 4 at 7 p.m., 18 acts performed at the annual talent show in the new Black Box Theater. The talent show started in 1998 and has been a yearly tradition ever since. 

“We had a pretty wide variety of music and dance performances. It was nice to see the students have a chance to showcase their talents after two years of not being able to put on the show,” drama adviser Ben Cossitor said. 

Auditions were held on Feb. 25 after school, but there were also other ways to audition.

“Students just had to fill out a form and then perform their act for the fine arts faculty. Because of the FID day the week before, we allowed video submissions. The audition is really just to make sure an act is prepared and school-appropriate,” Cossitor said. 

In 2020 and 2021, the show was canceled due to COVID-19.

“The past two years the talent show has not been able to occur due to social distancing and public health guidelines. This year, the show was able to occur pretty much the same way it has in the past,” Cossitor said. 

There were four judges this year: history teacher Carolyn Kline, gym teacher Julie Schmoke, math teacher Caleb Marasco and WTAJ TV personality Joe Murgo.

“Our judges were AAHS faculty members outside the fine arts department to avoid bias. We did have a guest Master of Ceremonies, Joe Murgo. He hosted for us a couple years ago and did such a great job. His name is pretty well known in the community for his work reporting the weather on WTAJ, so it just helps to drum up the interest,” Cossitor said. 

According to Cossitor, the judges would score the acts and based on their scores, they won either bronze, silver or gold categories. The top three winners received a gift card prize.

“The judges had several categories to score each act. For example, ‘originality’ and ‘technique’ and ‘skill.’ All the points get added together at the end and each act is ranked based on their total,” Cossitor said.

Senior Luke Rokosky placed first with a singing act. 

“I sang ‘La Vendetta’ from Mozart’s opera ‘Le Nozze di Figaro.’ I chose this piece because I love singing opera pieces, and this is a piece I already knew from my favorite opera,” Rokosky said. “I decided to sing opera because it is a hobby that I am passionate about but never get an opportunity to perform. I have been singing for most of my life.”

Being a performer, singing at the talent show wasn’t anything new for Rokosky.

“Performing in the Black Box was not unfamiliar to me as we use it frequently in drama clubs. This was different for me because I got to perform an opera piece. I am not a stranger to performing, but this specific genre of music is one that I have wanted to perform for years,” Rokosky said. “The audition was a video so it was slightly different, but the singing was quite similar. The biggest difference is that there was an audience at the talent show, but that is not something unfamiliar to me. I am used to performing and I am comfortable in front of an audience.” 

Singing an opera piece, Rokosky didn’t expect to place first. 

“I was very excited to come in first place. I knew that I had put in a lot of work, but I did not know how the audience would react to opera since it is not common,” Rokosky said. 

Junior Samantha Abbott placed second with a piece on the piano, which she has been playing for about 10 years. 

“I played ‘Breathe’ by Greg Marooney on the piano. I just liked the song so I learned it. It’s fun to play around with, dynamic wise,” Abbott said. 

Performing isn’t new for Abbott, but competition is.

“Performing in the Black Box was very different and less formal than on stage. I would probably still prefer the stage but it perhaps stressed me less,” Abbott said. 

Senior Parker Cook and sophomore Sarah Saylor were tied for third place. Cook performed a vocal and piano piece. 

“I played and sang ‘She Used to Be Mine’ from ‘Waitress.’ I chose this song because I saw ‘Waitress’ on Broadway a few months ago and fell in love with the song,” Cook said. I decided to do this song for the talent show because it was also part of the set list for my recital the next night.”

Cook feels that the talent show was beneficial for her as a performer, and is glad she got to share it with her friends.

“I think the other acts were really good. There were two pianists that had very good performances. My favorite act was an Italian Opera piece by my friend, Luke Rokosky,” Cook said. 

With the show being in the Black Box Theater and it being a competition, things felt somewhat different.

“It definitely had a different feel than the auditorium, but I think it was the perfect space for the type of event and the amount of people we had,” Cook said.

Saylor danced a lyrical solo to the song “Run to You” by Whitney Houston. She thought the talent show would be a good way to prepare for competition season.

“I chose this song because I wanted to do a song by the same artist that I did for my first dance solo,” Saylor said. 

Saylor has been dancing since she was three years old. She liked the idea of performing in the Black Box Theater because it felt less intimidating. 

“I think it helped me get over my fear of being in front of my peers and learn to branch out so that I believe in myself,” Saylor said. “I was really shocked [at placing]; I didn’t expect to do so well, especially since there were so many other talented people.”

Saylor is grateful for the opportunity.

“I just want to say thank you for the amazing experience, and I had an amazing time doing it,” Saylor said.

For Cossitor, the event turned out just as he expected.

“Everything went very well. We had a great turnout. We held the event in the Black Box Commons and filled it to capacity, probably around 300 people,” Cossitor said. “We hope even more students get involved in the show next year.”