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Meet Eagle County’s Talent

Caramie Schnell
cschnell@vaildaily.com
VAIL CO, Colorado
side profile of a microphone on a stand
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Two months. Three judges. Eight rounds. Nearly 40 competitors. One thousand dollars.

That’s the Vail Valley Has Talent Competition by the numbers.

Every Thursday night for the past eight weeks, aspiring singers have taken the stage at The Back Bowl in Eagle to show off their stuff. Of course, the “talent” has run the gamut, from those people who ought to stick to drunken late night karaoke, to people who have a serious shot at making it big.



One of the three judges, Jennifer Simonetti, moved to Eagle a year ago this week with her husband Andre Lemieux, a Johnny Cash impersonator who performs around the valley. She said she’s been stunned by just how good some people are.

“It’s been pretty tight each week,” said Simonetti, who has judged the competition each Thursday night along with Tony Mauro of KZYR and Mark Bricklin of the Vail Daily. “We’ve had everyone from 9-year-olds to 50-year-olds on stage. It’s amazing. It’s been packed every week. It’s brought out families. It’s a really wonderful, family-oriented competition.”



There are five finalists left, each of whom will take the stage tonight beginning at 7:30 p.m. The winner will walk out with $1,000.

Simonetti said the performers have been supportive of each other the whole way through the competition, patting each other on the back. But tonight there’s a whole lotta cash on the line.

“It’s going to be fierce,” Simonetti said. “I’m a little nervous.”



So let’s meet the finalists, shall we?

Age: 16.

From: Dedham, Mass.

Lives now: Edwards.

Fulltime gig: Sophomore at Vail Mountain School

Background: I started singing very early. I have been going to music camp in the summer. I play guitar (for 7 years), piano (for 4 months) and sing. I would like to pursue music as more than just a hobby because it means the world to me and I work very hard at it.

According to the judge: “She a real up and comer,” Simonetti said. “She has lots of natural talent, along with a very clear, very strong voice and a pretty stage presence.”

Age: 21.

From: I was born and raised in Seward, AK.

Lives now: Eagle.

Fulltime gig: I am a student at Colorado State University.

Background: I started singing at the age of three, and I can credit my musical abilities to my mom and dad who play the guitar and piano (respectively) and both sing very well! I have been playing the guitar and writing songs for about four years now, and I’ve loved every minute of it. Writing songs is a great way to express emotion, and each song of mine tells a personal story.

According to the judge: “Megan Houghton has a wonderful, unique style,” Simonetti said. “She has a sweet, but strong, powerful voice. She’s very original – she has the guts to do original songs.”

Age: 24.

Where are you from: Michigan.

Lives now: Vail.

Fulltime gig: Sales and Marketing Assistant at the Sonnenalp Resort of Vail. Amthor has a degree in Theater Communications from Siena Heights University in Michigan and has been active in theater and musical theater since she was 6 years old.

Background: I moved to Vail two years ago on a whim and have been enjoying the scenery ever since. In my spare time I enjoy singing at the Interfaith Chapel for St. Patrick’s Catholic services, playing my ukulele, and writing prose.

I’m very excited to be a part of this competition, as I’ve met some wonderfully talented vocalists and feel like I’m entering the musical world of Colorado … at long last. I wish the best of luck to all of the competitors and I’m grateful for this opportunity to jam with the best of them!

According to the judge: “Marie played the ukulele one week, and she plays the guitar,” Simonetti said. “She has a strong voice and a great smile. She just really enjoys what she’s doing.”

Age: 29.

Where are you from: Libertyville, Illinois.

Where do you live now: Avon.

Full-time gig: I’m a web developer at What To Do.

Background: I’ve been writing and playing music my entire life on many different instruments. Mainly I play guitar and I’d say I fall into the singer/songwriter category. I’ve managed to carve out my own style over the years, taking influence from a number of contrasting musical breeds, by and large giving recognition to blues and jazz. This year in March, I independently released an EP, and have now began working on my first full length record due near the end of this winter, it’s called “Long Winded Short Stories.” As it ensues, you’ll be able to follow the madness at http://www.michaelthomassmith.com.

According to the judge: “Mike is a consummate professional,” Simonetti said. “He’s done all originals, the whole competition. He’s a real crossover between Kenny Loggins and Dave Matthews, with some John Mayer in there too, but he’s so unique I don’t want to pigeonhole him. He has great stage presence.”

Age: 14.

Where are you from: Here.

Where do you live now: Eagle.

Fulltime gig: Freshman at Eagle Valley High School.

Background: Entertaining people is what I love to do. I’m singing 24/7. Music is what helps me gets through the day and really is what makes me happy. It’s somewhat of a therapy for me to get up on stage and belt out a song for an audience and make them happy. I play piano and drums and I sing, act and dance. This competition has been an incredible experience for me and it’s been amazing being able to see all the great talent in this valley.

According to the judge: “This 14-year-old kid walks up on stage in flip flops and a hoodie and opens up her mouth and starts singing (Barbara) Streisand. She was so right on, just beaming light. She channeled an old person,” Simonetti said.


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