Gala promises talent-filled evening

2010-03-19T01:15:00Z 2013-05-16T12:18:25Z Gala promises talent-filled eveningBy Melissa Davlin Times-News writer Twin Falls Times-News
March 19, 2010 1:15 am  • 


They've rehearsed and revised and are ready to wow.

On March 26, the top 12 finalists for Magic Valley's Got Talent will compete for the $2,500 grand prize. The finalists and eight guest performances will be broadcast live on, and Twin Falls comedian Danny Marona will host the event.

Many of the finalists are young, including clogger Abby Bitzenburg, 11, singer Elena Coats, 12, high school dance group So Fly, and pogo stickers Biff Hutchison and Dominic Shaw, both 15. There are two dance entries, one comedy skit, eight musical acts and one extreme pogo sticking duo. The 12 finalists - profiled on these pages in no particular order - will perform at the gala, and judges will decide the top three acts.

From there, the three acts will perform again. Audience members and Internet viewers can vote for their favorites via text during a 10-minute voting period. Second- and third-place winners receive $1,000 and $500, respectively.

The gala event is a fundraiser for Lighthouse Christian School, but judges Andrew Weeks, George Halsell, Brad Weiser and Jackie Tesh have no affiliation with Lighthouse, organizer Holly Borchardt said.

In the weeks prior to the event, contestants were readying their final performances. Burley singer Travis Johnson commented on the diverse field of contestants.

"I think it's going to be really tough for the judges," he said.

Melissa Davlin may be reached at 735-3234 or


Abby Bitzenburg

Twin Falls


At 11, Bitzenburg is already choreographing her own dances. She started clogging with Rocky Top Cloggers at 2 years old after watching her sister clog and has been stomping her feet ever since.

Bitzenburg plans to do the same stomping, jumping, kicking performance for the finals, and will change it up if she gets into the top three.

"I'm excited to see how everything turns out," she said. "I hope I do well." 

Travis Johnson


Acoustic guitar

Although Johnson has been playing guitar for about 30 years, he doesn't perform locally often. He puts most of his musical energy into writing songs he hopes will land in movies and television shows, a market he has been trying to break into.

Johnson writes all his own music. He usually goes country but recently started experimenting with country rock. The experiment got him into the top 12, and now the gala audience gets to enjoy his creative lyrics and mellow songs.

So Fly

Twin Falls

Hip-hop dance

Most members of So Fly have never taken dance lessons. The group - Joshua Gonzalez, Aisha Nanthanong, Sariah Lopez, Marcelino Paz, Luis Soria and Justin Gonzalez - taught themselves how to move from television shows like "America's Best Dance Crew."

The group is composed of students from Canyon Ridge High School and usually dances at parties. The performance is made of breakdance solos and group choreography, with moves like popping and tutting sprinkled in.

"We like to entertain people," Nanthanong said.

Dalton Mortensen

Twin Falls

Singing and piano

Although Mortensen won over the judges with talented piano playing and singing, he usually plays guitar for contests and performances.

"I'm more comfortable with guitar," he said. "This is a little bit different for me."

Mortensen auditioned with Idaho native Josh Ritter's "Idaho." After seeing the Idaho singer and songwriter in concert two years ago, Mortensen has loved that song. For this contest, he abandoned his familiar guitar and took to the keys, which he has been playing since he was in first grade.

The 16-year-old isn't sure what he will play for the finals, but expect to hear something along the lines of Coldplay or Damien Rice.

Bryon Hildreth

Twin Falls

Singing and guitar

Hildreth is the only top 12 contestant who performed in two acts that made the top 30. Hildreth competed with his band Copperhead, then performed a solo act. The solo entry made it to the top 12, but Copperhead didn't advance.

His bandmates don't mind, he said, but Hildreth is a little disappointed. Still, he plans to give the audience all he's got. He writes most of his own songs - including "The Man I'm Not," which he performed for the audition - but may do a cover of Josh Turner's "Long Black Train" for the gala performance. No matter what he does, his rich voice will surely impress the audience and judges.

Elena Coats

Twin Falls

Singing and guitar

Coats is only 12, but she commands her audience's attention with her mature voice and skillful guitar playing. The O'Leary Middle School seventh-grader has been singing all her life and is no stranger to performing; she has sung at county fairs and art festivals across southern Idaho.

For the finals, she plans to sing the same song she auditioned with, "Stay Here Forever" by Jewel.

"I just thought it would be a very good song to show them my range of singing and where I can go and what I can do with it," she said.


Twin Falls and Jerome


Dymund members Alex Ridgeway, Sage Baar, Mike Di Lucca, Joe Di Lucca, T.J. Richardson and Kable Barnhart range in age from 16 to 18. The band takes inspiration from classic rock bands like Journey and Styx, said drummer Ridgeway.

Keyboard player Joe Di Lucca wasn't able to appear with Dymund for the audition, but the rest of the members performed their original song "Our Night." They plan to do the same song for the finals.

In "Our Night," the band attempts to convey the excitement and energy of a music fan's first rock concert, Ridgeway said.

MOC - Michael Summers and Tony Garrett

Twin Falls


Christian rap?

It's a legitimate genre, Summers said, although it's not popular in south-central Idaho. The duo has been together since September 2008, and many of its fans are online. Before the audition, MOC had performed live only once.

Their lyrics glorify God but also have darker themes that explore persecution the two have experienced.

"It's not all bright and shiny like a lot of Christian music is," Summers said.

Jennifer Jorgensen

Twin Falls


Before the contest, Jorgensen rarely sang outside of church. She occasionally joined her father, a jazz trumpet player, at concerts.

Hoping to appeal to a broad audience, Jorgensen sang "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" for her audition. It's a song nearly everyone recognizes, whether they're 6 years old or 96, she said. She added a jazzy vibe to her rendition, and after receiving the prize for Best Musical Performance, Jorgensen plans to sing the same song for the finals.

"If it's good, why change it up?" she said.

David Bolster

Twin Falls


Although he is no stranger to audiences, Bolster didn't start out as a comedian. The Twin Falls man has drummed for bands for 20 years and performed comedy skits between sets.

The skit he performed for the auditions, "Mule Train," is one of his most popular, he said. During the skit, he pretends to ride a small, pink, stuffed mule with exaggerated motions and expressions. He plans to repeat the performance for the finals.

"There's a lot of people who haven't seen the little donkey skit," Bolster said, but ones who've seen it tell him it's hilarious.

Kelsi Fadness

Twin Falls


Accompanied by her father, Lighthouse Christian Fellowship pastor Greg Fadness, Kelsi Fadness charmed the audition audience as she introduced her song.

"Boys, listen up, and ladies, this one is for you," she said before she started playing.

The Times-News couldn't reach Fadness for this story, but Marsha Holloway of Lighthouse Christian said Fadness plans to use Lighthouse Rising, the church's praise band, to back up her vocals in the finals. The band was offered to all contestants, Holloway added, but Fadness is the only one taking advantage of the offer.

Biff Hutchison and Dominic Shaw


Extreme pogo sticking

During auditions, Hutchison and Shaw got some serious air on the stage. The two performed backflips, wrap-arounds, leg bar spins and supermans, landing them the Most Original Performance honors at Magic Valley's Got Talent auditions.

The two 15-year-olds started pogo sticking three years ago, but their mastery of the art didn't come without injuries. Last September, Hutchison broke his ankle, tibia and fibula.

Hopefully, their stunts will be more smooth during the finals. Who knew pogo sticking could be so cool?



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