5 Memorable Moments from Huntsville’s Got Talent 2024

3 young women holding awards and 4 smiling people, the judges.

In case you missed it – or you want to relive it – here are five memorable moments from Huntsville’s Got Talent 2024:

1 – Jaw-Dropping Performances

A young woman with blonde hair in purple light sings into a microphone

Isla-Maria Corbeil

A young girl, Sadie, sings into a microphone.

Sadie Laurence

A young woman with blonde hair and a pink dress sings into a microphone while raising her hand.

Christine Robitaille

As each Top 10 Finalist stepped into the spotlight on the Algonquin Theatre stage on Saturday, February 24, 2024, the audience burst into waves of awe, cheers, and loud applause.

“The finalists were amazing. I am actually so surprised that I won,” said singer-songwriter Ilsa-Maria Corbeil, 16. “They all had such incredible talent. I mean, I was up against a 10-year-old who sounded like Alicia Keys.”

Judges awarded First Place to Corbeil, Second Place to Sadie Laurence, 10, and Third Place to Christine Robitaille. The winners’ fellow Top 10 Finalists included Nils Buzora, Leah Church, Meredith Edgecombe, Ray Frankum, Adam Jenner, John Leadston, and Sonya Robertson.

Audience members were treated to powerful vocal performances, an energy-filled mashup on piano, captivating songs by guitarists, and one performer showcasing skills on both soprano saxophone and bass clarinet. Genres included rock, musical theatre, classical, jazz, country, and pop. Several finalists performed original songs and music.

Corbeil, who had competed the previous year, said she was happy to have landed the top spot in 2024. She said she had more confidence this year – and the continued support of her family. The audience saw that support on stage as her father and fellow band members accompanied her in her first-round performance of “Worth It” by Raye. Her second-round performance, an original song titled “Bodee,” was a solo.

Corbeil said her First Place win offered her validation as an emerging artist. “It’s a big achievement,” she said. She encouraged others to try out for Huntsville’s Got Talent in the future. “Honestly, just do it,” she said. “Why not?”

2 – Community Talent and Support

A man in a cowboy hat, Ray, sings while playing a guitar.

Ray Frankum

A woman in a hot pink shirt, Meredith, sings passionately into a microphone.
Meredith Edgecombe

A young man in a white shirt and grey vest, Nils, plays a golden soprano saxophone.

Nils Buzora

The difficult task of choosing the winners from the talented finalists was left to the judges – Geordie Sabbagh, Sue-Kirwin Campbell, Neil Barlow, and Andre Wahl.

Sabbagh said afterward that every finalist deserved the spotlight. “Without a doubt all the people who were on the stage tonight deserved to be there,” he said. “The depth of talent here is incredible.” That is what made the decisions so hard.

Sabbagh noted, too, that it took courage to try out and then step onto the stage – and it also took a supportive audience eager to celebrate community members and the arts. He tipped his cap to the more than 400 supportive audience members that filled the sold-out theatre for the event.

“Especially on the bad nights, knowing you always have that family and community who will always love and support you, it means everything,” he said.

3 – Guest Performances

A man in an orange hat and white T-shirt, Todd, signs while playing a guitar.

Todd Blair

A group of smiling people in blue T-shirts, the All Abilities Dance Troupe, gathers together and makes heart shapes with their hands.

All Abilities Dance Troupe

The Top 10 Finalists were not the only performers on stage.

Todd Blair, winner of Huntsville’s Got Talent 2023, returned to kick-off the show with an original song, “Hollow Ground.” The crowd burst into cheers. His advice to the finalists? Have fun with it.

Later, the All Abilities Dance Troupe of community members with and without disabilities earned a standing ovation for its choregraphed routine to “You Gotta Be” by Des’ree. The performance shared an important message of perseverance and inclusion, starting with the song’s lyrics (“Listen as your day unfolds / challenge what the future holds / try and keep your head up to the sky / love will save the day.”) and ending with troupe members gathered at centre stage forming hearts with their hands for the audience to cheers and whistles.

4 – Incredible Audience

A woman with a long blonde braid, Sonya, sings into a microphone while playing a guitar.

Sonya Robertson

a man in a dark top, John, sings into a microphone while playing the guitar.
John Leadston

A man in a grey suit jacket plays a grand piano.

Adam Jenner

A woman with brown hair sings into a microphone.
Leah Church

Huntsville’s Got Talent would not be possible without the support of an incredible audience who came to cheer – and raise funds for charity. Here is what audience members had to say on Facebook after the show:

“Another fabulous evening of wonderful local talent! Well done!” – Wendy McConnell

“It was spectacular! What an amazing experience for all the contestants and a wonderful cause.” – Molly Laurence

“A wonderful night for sure … talent was great.” – Brian Thompson

“So much great talent! I wouldn’t have wanted to be a judge because every single performer was incredible! … A fun evening full of amazing talent and most of all raised money for such an important cause! Inclusion and quality of life for all speak straight to my heart. Great job Community Living Huntsville, all of the sponsors, and attendees! You truly know how to support your community!” – Kelly Nickason

5 – Building an Inclusive Community – for Everyone

Jennifer Jerrett, event coordinator and Community Engagement Specialist for Community Living Huntsville, offered heartfelt thanks to everyone, including the audience, who made the event possible.

Huntsville’s Got Talent 2024 raised roughly $35,000 for Community Living Huntsville’s housing initiatives supporting people with developmental disabilities and families in North Muskoka who access the not-for-profit organization’s services.

“A sense of belonging starts with a dignified place to call home. Not everyone has that,” Jerrett told the audience. “With your support, we can create change.”

She told the story of Emily, a woman who had spent the first 36 years of her life homeless – first in foster care and then in an institution for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. It was not until Emily came to Community Living Huntsville and its Supported Group Living team that she was able to be herself, experience meaningful relationships with her housemates, be a part of her community, and feel comfort in the place where she lived. Emily was home.

“For Emily, home has been a journey. To get there, she needed action. Her action, our action, and the broader community’s action,” said Jerrett. “Action to realize that our communities are stronger when people with and without disabilities can live side-by-side with respect and dignity.”

Jerrett noted there were more than 600 people and families on a wait list for affordable housing in Muskoka. Wait times, according to the District of Muskoka, could last four to 10 years. Data from developmental services organizations show that, in Ontario, a person with a developmental disability may face a wait time 10-times longer than average. “Do you think it is reasonable for a person to sit on a wait list for 40 to 100 years?” she asked. “With your financial support, Community Living Huntsville can act on housing and housing solutions for people and families who access our services – solutions like our Transitional Housing initiative for adults living with developmental disabilities who are homeless in our community.”

Inclusion Takes a Village

Thank you to the Top 10 Finalists, judges, MCs Brock Cunningham and Tyler Mathieson, stage manager Lynn Hill, the Algonquin Theatre crew, event sponsors, Todd Blair, the All Abilities Dance Troupe, audience members, and local media for helping us shine a spotlight on community.

Community Living Huntsville is grateful to Dr. Drew and Janet Markham, who created Huntsville’s Got Talent, for allowing us to host the 2024 competition.

We also extend heartfelt gratitude to our 2023-2024 Signature Event Partners for their sponsorship of Huntsville’s Got Talent and all our not-for-profit organization’s other signature events throughout the year. Through their generosity, they enable us to continue opening doors in an inclusive community for people with developmental disabilities and families. Thank you for partnering with us and helping to create a more inclusive and supportive future for all.

Huntsville’s Got Talent is a nonprofit event that brings community together to celebrate local talent and raise funds for charity. Since its launch in 2017, Huntsville’s Got Talent has raised more than $78,000 for Community Living Huntsville. Visit the event’s website at www.huntsvillesgottalent.com

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