A Random Band performs the song "Ain't No Rest for the Wicked," originally by Cage the Elephant, at the Lehigh's Got Talent event in Lamberton Hall on Friday, Sept. 23, 2016. Lehigh’s Got Talent is semester-long student talent competitions in which contestants are eliminated via public voting until a winner is decided at the end of the semester. (Bryan Kim/B&W Staff)

Students compete in first Lehigh’s Got Talent competition to help charity of their choice

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For Connor Cragon, ’19, what originally started as a passion for singing, combined with an off-hand comment from a friend about trying out for “The Voice,” turned into the idea for Lehigh’s Got Talent.

Cragon, who is the president of the new club, petitioned the idea to Student Affairs last spring and is now hosting the first season of Lehigh’s Got Talent. The club’s goal is to bring a semester-long, student-run talent competition to campus, welcoming all acts to perform and raise money for the charities of their choice.

Three performances will be held throughout the semester every other Friday in Lamberton Hall. Lehigh’s Got Talent’s first show of the season was held Sept. 23, where more than 100 students gathered to watch, support and vote for their favorite act.

As this is the first semester Lehigh’s Got Talent is happening, the club showcased six groups in its first season, featuring two bands, three solo artists and one comedian.

“Because we’re still a fairly new club, we didn’t have as many sign-ups as we’d like, but we’re hoping for more next season,” Cragon said. “If we hit 15 to 20 acts, we’ll most likely host auditions for the show.”

From covers of published songs to original material, each of the participating acts gets the opportunity to perform in front of a panel of student judges, who are primarily there for entertainment. Until one winner is chosen at the end of the semester, a contestant will be eliminated through public voting at the end of each show.

Although there are other opportunities for students to showcase their talents, such as Music Box open mic nights, this is Lehigh’s first ongoing talent competition, aimed at bringing the community together in support of their favorite talents throughout the semester.

“We wanted to give students the opportunity to not only get involved with the talent competition, but also for students to follow this throughout the semester and build up a fan base to the show,” Cragon said.

The club also provides a way for the acts to receive constructive criticism they wouldn’t get during an event such as an open mic.

“We’re trying to distinguish ourselves from open mic nights by providing another fun activity for talented students that people can actually talk about and participate in through voting,” Cragon said.

As a way for Lehigh students to connect with the larger community, each talent act must choose a charity to represent throughout the competition.

Once a winning act is chosen, Lehigh’s Got Talent will host an end-of-semester show, featuring a performance by the winning act and supplemented by other on-campus groups. The proceeds from attendance will go to the charity the winning group sponsored throughout the competition.

Friday night’s event also fulfilled a 5×10 requirement for first-year students, which encouraged many to come out and support the talent acts. At the end of the event, a discussion panel was held with the first years.

Lehigh’s Got Talent is spreading through word of mouth, fliers and social media. Voting can be done through Facebook, but as a way to incentivize students to attend the club events, in-person votes are weighed more heavily than the votes received through Facebook.

When Eric Wolf, ’20, first heard about Lehigh’s Got Talent at the club fair in the beginning of the semester, he immediately got a group of friends together and formed a band called A Random Band.

“We just put this band together when we heard about Lehigh’s Got Talent and really only practiced about three cover songs,” band member Jean-Pierre Villamar, ’19, said.

Wolf involved the crowd in his performance, encouraging people to clap along. He said it was his first real performance.

“I’ve always liked to sing, but I’ve never really done anything with it — this was kind of my first big performance,” Wolf said. “I could really feel the energy from the crowd, and their reaction just solidified it all for me. Everything came together perfectly.”

In the true spirit of a talent competition television show, Lehigh’s Got Talent had a host in addition to three student judges who gave feedback to each talent act.

Although A Random Band came out to share its musical talents with the Lehigh community, it’s competing to bring awareness to the charity of its choice, The Arc of Warren County.

The Arc of Warren County is a charity that helps children and adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities such as Down Syndrome, among other things.

Lehigh’s Got Talent gives students the opportunity to do something positive for Lehigh’s campus, and get involved with the surrounding community.

“I love doing different open mic nights on campus, however, Lehigh’s Got Talent is really interesting because we’re all competing for charities which is something we haven’t really seen before here at Lehigh,” said acoustic act Cayla Pang, ’17. “You’re truly competing for something larger than just the title of Lehigh’s Got Talent.”

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