20 contestants to compete in Teens Have Talent at Maryland Theatre
Twenty Tri-State area teens will take to the stage of The Maryland Theatre on Saturday, March 9 at 7 p.m., to show off their skills and compete for top honors in Teens Have Talent.
Known in previous years as Washington County Teen Idol, the contest used to be only for singers and bands, somewhat akin to TV’s “American Idol.” This year’s version is presented by the Washington County Free Library and The Maryland Theatre.
WCFL young adult librarian Jay Trovato said, the competition was expanded to include other sorts of acts as well, more like the show “America’s Got Talent,” thus the change in name to Teens Have Talent.
“We wanted to give teens with a wider range of talents an opportunity to perform,” Trovato said. “So we decided to change the name to Teens Have Talent and let other types of performers come in.”
Seventy-five percent of the competitors are still singers, he said, but other acts will include slam poetry, solo piano and harp, as well as a few bands.
Library representatives went to high school cafeterias throughout Washington County during lunch time in December inviting teens ages 15 through 19 to participate in the competition. Auditions took place in January at The Flying Camel Cafe in Hagerstown and at the South Hagerstown High School auditorium. Judges chose 20 acts of the 36 that auditioned.
“One thing I like about the competition is that we have so many schools represented,” Trovato said. “In a talent show with stage performances, you would expect to have some students from (Barbara Ingram School for the Arts). But in addition to that, we have students from almost every high school in Washington County, plus some other places.”
Live 96.7 radio’s Ryan Smetzer will serve as master of ceremonies at the Teens Have Talent event. Three judges will rate acts based on stage presence, preparedness and overall performance. The grand prize winner will receive $1,000 and runner-up will get $500.
Austin Swiger, 19, of Hagerstown, was the grand prize winner of the 2018 contest. Swiger said he participated in middle school chorus, studied vocals at Barbara Ingram School for the Arts his freshman year, and then went on to attend and graduate from Williamsport High School.
“Throughout that time, I performed with Kenny Rogers, and I performed multiple times with the Maryland Symphony Orchestra,” he said.
He gained those opportunities by auditioning through school chorus programs, he said.
Swiger first heard of Teen Idol during his freshman year, but just 14 years old at the time, he was not yet old enough to audition.
“When I was out of school, I decided to give it a shot,” he said, “and I ended up winning.”
Swiger sang Michael Buble’s “Save the Last Dance for Me” and “Cry Me a River.”
He noted that there were many talented competitors in the contest, but said he worked hard for his success.
“I put in a lot of hard work and I would say I believed in myself the whole way through,” he said.
A year later, Swiger said he works as a full-time musician, singing locally and selling his music on SoundCloud.
“I write music. I am on YouTube, that’s where I make some of my money from,” he said.
In most of Swiger’s local performances, he sings the styles and songs of Frank Sinatra and Michael Buble. In his own writing, he prefers the more contemporary sounds and styles of artists like Post Malone and Ed Sheeran.
Swiger will perform at this year’s Teens Have Talent and said his experience with the contest has served him well.
“I definitely think it’s a really good opportunity to meet other artists,” he said. “I met a lot through it, and now I go to their events. It’s a great community for people our age.”
The contest also provides an opportunity to perform in a professional venue, he said.
“You learn and understand how that operates.”
Tickets to the show cost $10 in advance and $15 at the door.
Top photo: Austin Swiger said winning the Teen Idol contest, which is now called Teens Have Talent, opened doors and created a musical community for him. (Submitted photo)