By SARAH SHMERLING | Managing Editor
A tried and true Palisadian tradition, the 2018 Pacific Palisades Teen Talent Contest will bring no shortage of talent—from singers, to filmmakers, to musicians … this year’s show, as always, will have it all.
For 58 years, the contest has highlighted some of the town’s best and brightest students, who are competing to win the honor of representing the Palisades for a year, as well as $1,000 and free food at Palisades Garden Café.
Like what you see? Tickets are now available to attend the show, which will take place Wednesday, April 25, at Palisades Charter High School.
An avid horseback rider and actress, Nikki Johnson was born into a family of ranchers. Johnson has participated in 10 plays—starring in over half. She is an active participant in KIWINS, a Pali High community service group. The sophomore has completed community service projects, including making cards for kids in the hospital. This year, she donated nine inches of her hair during a hair drive.
Pali High sophomore Matthew Polovinchik has a wide range of talents when it comes to playing piano. “I practice piano for hours every day, and most of the time it’s classical but I am currently playing piano for the musical ‘Footloose’ at Pali High,” he explained. Polovinchik competes in piano competitions and performs regularly, and loves listening to music by Baroque, Classical, Romantic and early 20th century composers.
“I’ve been singing since I was 4 years old,” Sarah Mousavi told the Palisadian-Post. “I sang the anthem at my elementary school, as well as participated in the musicals there.” Mousavi is now finishing up her senior year at Pali High, where she participates in the Youth & Gov program. In addition to singing, Mousavi has spent time volunteering at food banks, the Special Olympics and homeless shelters.
When Madyson Barnett, a freshman at Louisville High School, is not filmmaking, she plays soccer and is a cheerleader. “I have a huge compassion for working with kids with special needs,” Barnett shared. Barnett is also a church leader, has spent 14 hours with her school’s food bank and crayfish removal projects, and is a former Paul Revere Charter Middle School club member.
In 12th grade at Pali High, Shaday Diaz has won two talent shows at school. Diaz has traveled to England, China, Italy and Tijuana, where Diaz visited and helped out at an orphanage. “I’ve sung to children who have been abused,” Diaz explained. Diaz is also a member of the National Children’s Choir, which requires a rehearsal every Sunday for five hours.
Pali High sophomore Sydney Small has been in 16 musicals since getting her start in kindergarten. When she’s not honing her craft, Small can be seen working at The Yogurt Shoppe, or volunteering at Teen Line or the OPCC in Santa Monica. At Pali High, Small is an ambassador and involved in Youth and Gov.
Elle Baker keeps a busy schedule, filled with playing soccer, singing, dancing, acting, drawing and reading. Now in her freshman year at Malibu High School, Baker has been awarded Principal Honor Roll two semesters in a row. She is a member of the National Charity League of Los Angeles and also a teacher’s aid at Malibu Jewish Center & Synagogue during Hebrew school each week.
In 2017, Jordan Washington won the state championship for speech and debate for storytelling. Washington, now in ninth grade at Pali High, was a member of a previous school’s a cappella group for two years. In addition to track and field, Washington also does volunteer work through church.
Taylor Schonbuch has frequently been seen on the Pali High stage, most recently as Rusty in this spring’s “Footloose.” Dedicated to her craft, Schonbuch has been singing, taking private voice and piano lessons, writing original songs, and performing as often as possible. “During my pre-school class sing, the adults started laughing because one voice was belting every lyric to every song,” Schonbuch shared of her early start. “That voice was mine.”
Kainoa Kanter, who has played piano for eight years, studies at the Colburn Conservatory in downtown Los Angeles. “I enjoy expressing myself through music,” Kanter explained. The Pali High freshman received High Honor Roll and CJSF status while attending Paul Revere Charter Middle School. Kanter has fulfilled community service hours through helping local seniors learn how to use technology. In sixth grade, Kanter organized a group to help save sea turtles in Costa Rica and raised enough money to adopt a green sea turtle.
Pali High junior Ariel Tan has been around the world, having traveled across the U.S. and the Philippines for both vacations and mission trips, as well as to Staten Island and the Philippines as a disaster relief volunteer. In terms of talent, Tan perfects her craft by taking voice, guitar and piano lessons. Last summer, Tan enrolled at classes at Santa Monica College for voice and music theory. When not busy, Tan said, “I love to go swimming at the pool or beach, exploring LA, hanging out with friends or family, and trying different types of food.”
In her freshman year at Pali High, Valentina Silardi plays volleyball for two teams: one on the beach and one indoor club team. She has been taking piano lessons for eight years, as well as guitar for two. “This year, I am in the middle of recording my own album to pursue my dream of becoming a professional singer,” Silardi shared. Silardi, a dual citizen of the U.S. and Italy, has volunteered at her grandparents’ church, feeding the homeless.
David Yamin, a sophomore at Pali High, plays violin every Tuesday for patients at Cedar Sinai as a part of its musical therapy program. “I have played violin for 11 years and absolutely enjoy brightening people’s days with my playing,” Yamin shared. Yamin received the Presidential Award at Paul Revere Charter Middle School for earning all A’s, as well as receiving the principal’s and honors awards at Pali High each year.
Palisades-Y Youth and Government, Mock Trial, co-president of Save a Child’s Heart club … these are just some of the extracurriculars Pali High freshman Aaron Yamin participates in. Yamin volunteers at several locations around Los Angeles, including Cedar Sinai, Belmont House, the annual Palisades pumpkin patch and tree lot, and Feed My Starving Children.
Pali High senior Angel Ogwo participates in track and field where he runs the 100 meter, 200 meter, and long jump and triple jump. He’s been in school plays, including “The Great Gatsby,” “Footloose” and a student-written play called “Humankind.” Ogwo also does stand-up comedy outside of school. He’s performed at Laugh Factory, Haha Comedy Club and Improv Comedy Club.