Garrett Ryan looked shocked when he was named the 2017 winner of Suburban Chicago's Got Talent. The West Dundee singer-songwriter edged ahead of nine other finalists on Saturday at the Taste of Arlington Heights.
"It was very nerve-wracking," said Ryan, a returning top-10 finalist who wowed judges with "Heart of Mine," a recently finished song he dedicated to his girlfriend. "There were a lot of talented acts and I just tried to play my best."
Ryan wins the "STARter Kit" grand prize valued at $5,000. It includes an opportunity to open for a national headlining act at the Arcada Theatre in St. Charles, career mentoring by Onesti Entertainment, and professional video and still photo shoots of a live performance. Ryan also gets to perform at Septemberfest in Schaumburg at 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 2.
Singer-songwriter Kayla Seeber of Poplar Grove was announced as the 2017 Fan Favorite. The North Boone High School senior received the highest number of cumulative online votes following three previous competition rounds held at the Prairie Center for the Arts in Schaumburg.
Seeber's Fan Favorite award package features gift cards from local restaurants, theaters and other attractions valued at more than $500. A guitar from Guitar Center was also added to the Fan Favorite prize list.
"It's been a whirlwind," said Seeber, who performed her own song "Dollar Tree" at the finale. "I've mostly been doing county talent shows, but they haven't been to the scale like this. This is the biggest talent show I've done."
Prairie Center production supervisor Rob Pileckis hosted the finale, which featured performers ranging in age from 14-year-old singer-songwriter Adem Dalipi from Belvidere, to LoneSome Cliff, a 61-year-od singer-songwriter from Chicago. Also in this year's mix was the competition's first soloist drummer, Arian Guzik of Berwyn, and the recently formed hip-hop dance troupe The Dynasty, based in Naperville. Vocalists Cassandra Henwood of Elgin and Marina Alyse of Lake in the Hills/Chicago sang cover versions of pop hits throughout the competition, while finalists including Tom and Olivia of Aurora and Lorenzo Esposito of Lisle performed a mix of original songs and rearranged mashups.
"It's such a joy to see such a wide array of talent," said competition judge Joe Keefe, the artistic director of the Metropolis Performing Arts Centre in Arlington Heights. "I see hundreds of talented people every year, but this group just blew me away with their passion, their commitment and discipline and the connection they have to the music and moments of performance."
Along with Keefe, the finale judging panel included Onesti Entertainment President Ron Onesti, talent agent Paige Ehlman and Daily Herald legal affairs/theater reporter Barbara Vitello.
"We really felt that Garrett was such a well-rounded performer in combining his writing skills with his creativity in performance," said Onesti, praising Ryan's artistry at making music with a guitar and loop pedal. "I see Garret as being someone who can truly benefit from not only the prize package, but also the extra exposure."
The sixth year of Suburban Chicago's Got Talent attracted more than 50 acts at initial auditions in June. Suburban Chicago's Got Talent is co-sponsored by the Daily Herald, Onesti Entertainment, the Prairie Center for the Arts, the Arlington Heights Chamber of Commerce, Salon Lorrene, Zeigler Automotive Group and Amita Health.
Many of the Suburban Chicago's Got Talent finalists get to perform at 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 9, at Street Fest at Randhurst Village in Mount Prospect. Ryan is also set to appear on "ABC 7 Eyewitness News Sunday Morning." Videos of the top 2017 finalists can be seen at events.dailyherald.com/talent.