Rising Star competitors impress campus


Felicity Knabenbauer

Judges University Center Executive Director Angela Meldonian, senior music major Jimmy Karolek and outreach program manager Eric Field watch performers at the Rising Star talent show in the Down Under Thursday, March 3, 2022.

Felicity Knabenbauer, Lifestlye Editor

The University of Wisconsin-Whitewater is known for many things such as the ever famous football team and its business school, but is especially appreciated for its visual and performing arts programs that cater to the oh-so talented students who are enrolled on campus. Knowing that there is such a large variety of gifted students ready and waiting to showcase their one-of-a-kind abilities, UC Live decided to host the ‘Rising Star’ talent show with tryouts were held Friday Feb. 25 and the show the following Thursday Mar. 3 in the University Center’s Down Under performance area. 

“The talent show was actually my idea. I’m a huge fan of America’s Got Talent, American Idol and The Voice,” said UC Live Event Coordinator Micheal Garcia. “I decided that we could put together a competition exactly like that here on stage. We have judges, we have competitors, and we have everything to make it super awesome. So I’m really excited.”

There were six groups of performers who led the stage that night, making it obvious why they were the chosen few to be plucked from the tryouts. One of the performers was Kierstyn Torres, a junior music major who performed on her keyboard a wondrous rendition of Elton John’s ‘Your Song’ and an original piece of her own music. Another student, junior psychology major Vae Billing, performed the difficult piece ‘Diary’ by Alicia Keys along with her own original song as well. A newbie bass player and singer CJ Hoze had only been practicing for a year, yet impressed the crowd with her rhythmic strumming to the intense beats that both songs demanded. She chose two pieces of music from one of her favorite cartoons, Adventure Time and even dressed as a character for her act.

The band ‘Nothing of Consequences’ jamming out on stage.

“It seemed different from a usual talent show and I have never played my bass on stage before and I thought this would be a cool opportunity to do it,” said Hoze, a junior film studies major. “The talent show doesn’t seem as intense of one and more of an intimate sort of setting which I like.” 

After a short while of deliberation from the judges in a separate room, it was soon announced who the three winners of the talent show would be. It was obvious from the judges reactions during the show how difficult of a decision this had been for them to make.

“We have a lot of competitors who are excited to perform, who love to perform and I feel like the top three place finishers will be hand selected by the judges and will be the best of the best. I don’t have a favorite to win but I am excited to see the band just because we didn’t get to see them audition live, so I am excited to see how they will rock the house,” said Garcia.

And rock the house they did indeed with their amazing set of two original songs “Within” and Blind Ambition” performed with high energy that only true rock stars can bring to the stage. Unsurprising many when it was announced that they were in third place for the competition. Rob Davis, a senior business major, Mike Coyne and Jack Walker all came together to form their indie, folk and midwest emo influenced band called “Nothing of Consequences.” If time allowed they would have definitely received an encore from the crowd. The second palace winners of the competition were senior music major Molly Wanless as well as her and her partner senior music major Jacob Krueger, who strummed a guitar as she sang. Their beautiful melody of the song “So Big/So Small” by Dear Even Hanson mystified the judges. 

“I had so much fun. I did not expect it to be so great,” said junior biology major Lauryn Swanson. “I was going to meet up with some friends who ended up not being able to come. I did not expect it to be so amazing. It was absolutely astounding. I don’t remember the band’s name but they sounded like ‘The Frontbottoms.’ They were so rad and I want to be able to come back and see them again. Plus, I also knew Molly Wanless from the show choir in the past and it was so much fun seeing her perform again.” 

Vae Billing bellowing out her soothing croons.

The official and first place winner of the Rising Star talent show was senior human resources major Adelia Mahaffee. Her control of voice and song choices of ‘Feeling Good’ by Michael Bublé and ‘Shallow’ by Lady Gaga made her a shoo-in to receive the award by the end of the show.

The three judges University Center Executive Director Angela Meldonian, outreach program manager Eric Fieldall and senior music major Jimmy Karolek acted out their jobs with the highest of professionality. Not only did they comment about what they loved about the acts, but also how the performers could improve their stage performance in the future. 

Nights like these are a reminder of just how much talent UW-W’s student body has to offer. These students with their entire lives ahead of them, have found their passion and share it with others at events like these, bringing joy to audiences on campus and beyond. 

In the Royal Purple Best of Whitewater survey, the University Center Down Under received second place in the Best Performance Venue Category behind the Young Auditorium and ahead of the Greenhill Center of the Arts. Find all results of the 6th annual survey at Best of Whitewater 2022.