Stars get ready: Teen Star prepares to audition Santa Barbara County hopefuls for annual show

Allie Nixon, left, 2013 Teen Star Santa Barbara, and Rachel LaCommare, the 2012 winner, pose together during the Fourth Annual Media Launch event on Tuesday night at Santa Barbara Sound Design Studios.
Allie Nixon, left, 2013 Teen Star Santa Barbara, and Rachel LaCommare, the 2012 winner, pose together during the Fourth Annual Media Launch event on Tuesday night at Santa Barbara Sound Design Studios.

Five years in, Santa Barbara County’s Teen Star talent competition keeps rising. Joe Lambert’s nonprofit has gone from a small show at Santa Barbara High School to a major event at the Granada Theatre, and the winners have gone on to recording contracts and industry interest.

As thanks to the media and to announce this year’s competition, Teen Star threw a music-filled press conference Tuesday night at Santa Barbara Sound Design on Haley Street, the studio owned by Dom Camardella that has recorded Depeche Mode, Ottmar Liebert and Olivia-Newton John, among others.

Mr. Lambert, an investment manager, said he had no plans for the venture to take off like it did. Audience attendance went from 425 in 2010 to 1,550 in 2013.

“I don’t focus on numbers. They just happen,” he said. “I think if you just focus on doing a good job, producing, if you put your best effort forward and put out a good production, the people want that.

“The people are hungry for this in Santa Barbara,” Mr. Lambert said. “The parents, they want to see their kids on stage and there aren’t that many opportunities to do this kind of thing.”

Teen Star auditions talented teens, grades 7 to 12, in Santa Maria and Santa Barbara and chooses 10 finalists, with two understudies, for the finale that takes place at the Granada in front of celebrity judges. Auditions will be held Saturday and Sunday and the finale is scheduled for Feb. 8.

At the end of the evening, one winner will be announced, earning a $1,000 scholarship, a chance to record at Santa Barbara Sound Design, radio and TV appearances, and opportunities to appear at various entertainment events around the country.

Teen Star showed off former winners on Tuesday evening with performances by Allie Nixon, 18, a recent graduate of Carpinteria High and now a student at Westmont; and former San Marcos grad Rachel La Commare, 19. They both performed heartfelt and self-penned ballads at a piano.

Rising Star, the adult version of Teen Star, also showed off finalist Chelsea Chaput, who sang two country songs. Bookending the evening was local performer Becca Solodon, who ushered people in and out with her soft jazz songs.

“It’s really refreshing to see girls much younger than me starting out in this process and realizing what they want to be,” said Miss Chaput before her set. “Ultimately, that’s what Teen Star’s about. It’s good to get this stuff sorted out when you’re young and hopeful, and I think Teen Star is a great outlet.”

For those worried they or their teens may have missed the audition, Teen Star just extended the deadline for entries to Thursday.

“If we have room and we can fit them in, we may even extend to Friday,” said Mr. Lambert.

For more information, entry rules and deadline dates, go to http://teenstar.us/

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