After a night filled with music, dancing and even martial arts, judges crowned three winners in the first-ever Yorktown’s Got Talent show.
Two winners were chosen in the adult division and one winner in the youth division.
In the adult group, 18-year-old Leila Hudson and 27-year-old Caitlin Cuevo tied for their enchanting harp performance and electric hoop dancing routine, respectively.
Hudson said that this was her first solo performance in front of Yorktown residents and she was excited to play one of her favorite pieces, “La Source” by Alphonse Hasselmans, which emulates a water fountain.
She also congratulated Cuevo on her win, commending her talent, and said she hopes Yorktown’s Got Talent becomes an annual event.
She plans to put the money she won toward music lessons.
This also was Cuevo’s first solo performance and she said she was excited to perform as well as surprised by her win.
She is the founder of the Westchester Hoop Troop, whose mission is to spread awareness and positivity through flow arts and hoop dancing. She currently teaches adult and children’s classes in Peekskill but will start to offer classes in Putnam Valley and Yorktown soon.
She plans to put the money that she won into the Westchester Hoop Troop.
However, one of the biggest surprises was delivered by one of the show’s smallest contestants.
Eleven-year-old Erisa McAuliffe rocked the stage with her performance of “Big Love” by Fleetwood Mac on her custom-made jumbo X30 Emerald guitar from Ireland, which earned her the win in the youth contestant division.
McAuliffe said she was excited to perform and even more so to win. Before the show, she said she wanted people to recognize her as a guitarist and after, she said she hopes her performance will inspire people to bring more musical opportunities for people her age to Yorktown.
Her mom, Kathleen McAuliffe, said her daughter has music in her blood, practices all day and she is proud of her.
Erisa said that she plans to save the money she won for college.
Yorktown’s Got Talent was held at the Yorktown Stage on Friday, Feb. 7. The show was organized by Cub Scout leader the Rev. Paul Silverman as a way to raise money for the Cub Scouts of Yorktown. The audience was filled with community members who came out to support the performers and Scouts. Silverman has been working on the event for months and said he was happy with how the night went.
“I think it’s fantastic. I’m really, really pleased,” Silverman said. “Everyone was moved in the audience and I think it’s because they have the connection to a lot of people on the stage and it’s their neighbors and friends. People like the TV show, I guess, but it’s different when it’s your community up there.”
Bruce Apar, the emcee for the night, said he was excited to host.
“I’ve been looking forward to it because it’s something relatively new for Yorktown, a talent contest, and it’s a fundraiser for a great organization, the Cub Scouts,” Apar said. “A lot of people feel there is ‘hidden talent’ in Yorktown that could be living next door to you and you’re not aware of it, so this is a great way to bring it to the surface.”
Apar kept the stage lively with jokes between performances and the show was judged by a man already comfortable in that role, Town Justice Gary Raniolo, along with Police Chief Robert Noble, Town Clerk Diana Quast and Yorktown’s own rock star, Jessica Lynn.
“I’m excited. Ready to see some excellent talent. I’m sure Yorktown will bring it tonight and I’m glad I have a front-row seat to see it,” Noble said. “I’m just looking forward to seeing people get out there and give their best. They have the courage to get on stage and get out in front of a lot of different people. They have my admiration and I hope I can judge accordingly.”
Raniolo said he’s happy being a judge every day by profession, but especially in Yorktown.
“I’m excited to be a judge here tonight and thanks to Reverend Paul Silverman for asking me to be here tonight. I think it’s for a great cause,” Raniolo said. “I’m sure I’m going to be very impressed by all the talent Yorktown has to bring. The most important thing is raising money for the Scouts, they’re a great group, and for everyone in Yorktown to have a lot of fun.”
Country music artist Lynn said she was happy she could do this for her hometown.
“Yorktown is my hometown, but I love working with kids and being a mentor, helping other people chasing their dreams, so this is really cool for me,” Lynn said. “I’m hoping to see a good stage presence. For me, as a live performer, there are so many things that go wrong when you’re on stage, but the trick is to never let people see that.”
She also said the most important thing to bring to the stage is passion.
“I think, when you’re up there delivering a song, people are going to believe you or they are not, so that’s the most important thing—putting your heart and soul into every word that you sing; that’s what makes music good,” Lynn said.
Jitters could be felt backstage, but the performers were excited to display their skills.
Performer Joe Cunningham said he was nervous to perform in front of his daughter, Maeve, for the first time. He said he was performing because he wanted to support becoming a member of one of the first female Cub Scout troops. She asked him to perform “You’ve Got a Friend” by James Taylor for the show.
“I wanted to help her, support her in breaking barriers,” Cunningham said.
Shouts of encouragement from Maeve in the audience put a smile on Cunningham’s face and surely allayed any worries he had.
A group called The Pie Brothers, made up of Lakeland High School students Matt Hullstrung, Robert Varga, Steven Fitzgerald and Dan Mangiafridda, said they were wishing for the best and were just going to try to not mess up. They said they were in it to have fun, spread their band name and support the Cub Scouts.
Zachary Sunaz and his little sister, Natalie, said they were there to support their fellow Scouts and have fun.
Barry Liebman, owner of Yorktown Stage, said he thought the show was great.
“The show was fabulous, a lot of great talent,” Liebman said. “It was great to have the Cub Scouts here. Paul [Silverman] did an amazing job, as did everybody. The next time we’ll be bigger and better and it should be a yearly fundraiser for the Cub Scouts.”