Being a judge for The Soo’s Got Talent show has been a challenging but rewarding experience for local musician Darren Robertson.
After a first elimination round including 24 performers was held Sept. 9, Robertson – along with fellow judges Mike Severin, Valerie Powley and Timothy Murphy – will pick a winner at The Soo’s Got Talent finale beginning at 5 pm on Oct. 21 at Soo Blaster.
After a second elimination round was held Sept. 16, followed by a semi-final Oct. 1, judges have whittled it down to six finalists.
“The competition was so tight. The level of talent is just unbelievable. We’ve never had this level of talent before for our shows,” Robertson said, speaking to SooToday.
“We’ve been watching them grow as performers. We’re watching them evolve and hone their craft. They’ve really stepped up their game and are really shining. I’m surprised that a couple of them don’t already have recording contracts.”
Finalists for The Soo’s Got Talent are Ali Nisbett, Amanda Phillips, Colin Gasparelli, MJ Servillon, Nanette Garcia and Xavier Labouef.
“Colin and Xavier are past contestants from previous shows so it was nice to have those faces come back again and grace us with their presence,” Robertson said.
“Colin is an outstanding young performer. He’s got a very unique voice. He’s very good at what he does. Everything that he’s done so far, pretty much, has been original material. He’s been playing guitar, singing and writing his own music and he also records his own backing tracks so for a 21-year-old I’d say that’s really impressive.”
Each contestant, in keeping with past Soo’s Got Talent competitions, will be performing a song of their own choice as well as a Judges Choice.
After a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year marks the third Soo’s Got Talent competition.
Handsome Sandwich, a local band, will be backing up the contestants this year.
“We scouted around and listened to a number of different bands and we thought ‘wow, these are the guys.’ We approached them and asked them if they would be interested and they were all very much for the idea of helping us out in being the backup band for The Soo’s Got Talent this year,” Robertson said.
The Soo’s Got Talent shows, apart from being local entertainment showcases, are fundraisers.
Most of the funds raised from admission will go to the Brain Injury Association of Sault Ste. Marie and District, the rest toward prizes for first, second and third place contestants.
“I think the Brain Injury Association is a great cause and they’ve helped a lot of people. We’re trying to help out as much as we can to raise funds and awareness, to let people know that there is an organization out there that will be able to help those with brain injuries,” Robertson said.
The two prior Soo’s Got Talent events raised funds for The Canadian Cancer Society and ARCH.
“Attendance has been really good. We’ve had a good turnout and people have been impressed with what we’ve been able to do and the level of show that we’ve put on. It’s been positive.”
Tickets are available at the door at Soo Blaster.
General admission is $15 and $10 for children 12 and under.
“Everything has run really smoothly. Mike Blair from 705Live Sound has brought the stage to life with his lighting and sound from him,” Robertson said.
Finalists will be performing classic rock and pop as well as modern songs.
“It’s been an exciting and rewarding experience to watch these contestants grow from where they started to where they finish and to grow with them. Money can’t buy that,” Robertson said.
The competition has been organized by Robertson, Mario Naccarato as event founder and producer and Barbara Rajnovich as director and producer.