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Santa Barbara Teen Stars Dazzle at Launch of 2012 Singing Competition

Celebrity judges, media, music stars and previous winners kick off the new season with a dinner at the Granada Theatre

The Teen Star Media Launch Dinner held in the Granada Theatre Founders Room last Thursday kicked off the highly anticipated Santa Barbara Teen Star 2012 competition presented this year by Deckers Outdoor Corporation with a finale scheduled for March 3 at the Granada.

“Deckers is proud to be the producing sponsor of Teen Star,” said Angel Martinez, chairman and CEO of Deckers. “We are passionate about supporting the future of our youth by offering avenues to pursue their dreams and professions. Teen Star is the perfect program to do that.”

Santa Barbara Teen Star is a competition to discover talented teen solo singers in Santa Barbara County and also benefits Santa Barbara County high school performing arts departments.

The first Teen Idol competition, in 2010, attracted 39 audition participants and the finale held at the Elings Performing Arts Center at Dos Pueblos High School welcomed more than 400 fans and supporters.

And in just two seasons, the talented lineup of amazing contestants and celebrity judges such as Kenny Loggins and Jim Messina of Loggins & Messina and Dishwalla’s J.R. Richards garnered the new title of Santa Barbara Teen Star at the request of American Idol because of the local competition’s growing popularity.

“With all of this attention and the caliber of our celebrity judges, we definitely got noticed,” Teen Star founder and executive producer Joe Lambert said. “We originally called the program Santa Barbara Teen Idol until American Idol asked us to take out the word ‘Idol’ in our title. We didn’t go idle, we changed our name, and now we have a legally hassle-free path with Teen Star Santa Barbara.’’

In 2011, more than 80 contestants from 22 high schools in Santa Barbara County auditioned to participate in the popular singing competition, and more than 800 people attended the sold-out finale held last March at Santa Barbara High School. The event was also streamed live on the Internet courtesy of California Streaming, and the Teen Star Facebook page received more than 150,000 views after the show.

Lambert said the success of Teen Star has prompted other communities across the country to take notice and follow suit.

“There is a keen interest in the concept and quality of our production,” said Lambert, who plans to produce Teen Star nationally starting this April at the Alabama Theater in Birmingham, Ala.

The atmosphere in the elegant Founders Room was electric and the room was abuzz with excitement as more than 50 guests made up of media representatives, event sponsors, volunteer organizers and community leaders filled the intimate space above State Street for an evening of information, live entertainment and fine food provided by Opal Restaurant.

David Cash, superintendent of the Santa Barbra Unified School District who recently succeeded the retired Brian Sarvis, said he was delighted to be at the event, which supports public education and helps children reach their fullest potential.

“Tonight is a great way to kick off a wonderful event for the performing arts and for the children in our community,” Cash said. “This is a fantastic opportunity for students in our school district and nonstudents throughout our entire community. I’m an avid supporter of the performing arts, and I support anything that encourages children to think outside the box and be brave.”

Attendees were asked to settle into their seats as dinner was served, and the presentation began with Teen Star co-executive producer Lin Aubuchon addressing the crowd.

Aubuchon was bursting with excitement as she shared that a free 2012 Teen Star workshop will be hosted by Loggins and Hollywood voice actor Townsend Coleman on Jan. 21 in the San Marcos High School theater to prepare local students in grades seven through 12 for upcoming auditions. The first round of auditions will be held Feb. 2 at Righetti High School in Santa Maria and Feb. 4-5 at San Marcos High School in Santa Barbara.

Next, Martinez expressed the importance of events such as Teen Star that help embody confidence in children.

“We all look back on the things we did as kids that gave us tremendous confidence to help us overcome various barriers, whether real or self-imposed,” Martinez said. “I think confidence for kids is a huge barrier to success, and this event is one of those things that combines kids’ passions because art is always about passion and it instills in them a sense of capability that’s going to serve them no matter what else they choose to do.”

After a short video recap featuring highlights from the 2011 Teen Star finale, the excited guests were treated to live performances from past winners and a special guest.

2010 Santa Barbara Teen Idol winner Alison Lewis, 18, sang first, and she wowed the crowd with “Astonishing” from the musical Little Women. Bear Redell, 15, followed with a rousing rendition of “Drops of Jupiter” from Train that helped him earn the coveted 2011 Teen Star title.

Next, Richards, lead singer for the alternative rock band Dishwalla and a Teen Star judge, performed two songs, including a stirring version the 1996 hit single “Counting Blue Cars” from the album Pet Your Friends. Richards said he became involved with Teen Star because these kinds of opportunities were not available to him when he was starting out.

“Unfortunately, performing arts in our schools are taking a huge hit because of the economy, so I support anything that promotes the arts and allows kids to excel in these areas,” Richards said.

His success as a musician has also allowed him to become more involved in humanitarian efforts, and last January he established a nonprofit organization called the 20K Watts project, an artist eco alliance that provides sustainable clean energy to Third World countries and impoverished communities worldwide.

Lewis and Redell agreed that winning the competition changed their lives and helped boost their singing careers. Both singers have recorded tracks under the mentorship of Loggins and also performed at countless community events and charity fundraisers with appearances on local radio shows K-Lite 101.7 FM and Z94.5 FM.

Lewis, a Santa Barbara High School student, plans to major in her passion, musical theater, and is in the process of applying for college.

“I have auditions at 10 universities in the next three months, and my top colleges of choice are Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and Otterbein University in Ohio,” Lewis said.

Redell, who was an eighth-grader at Los Olivos Junior High School when he won the competition last year, said he was more interested in athletics at the time but after competing and winning Teen Star has decided to pursue a career as a musician.

“I have definitely evolved as a singer and songwriter, and my goal is to pursue this as a career,” Redell said.

Redell said that the coolest part about of his Teen Star experience was working with Loggins, who helped him rewrite an original song titled “Think of You” at the Santa Barbara Sound Design recording studio.

“Now I can say that Kenny Loggins helped me write this song,” Redell said with a smile.

The former Teen Star winner offered a bit of advice to the 2012 Teen Star contestants.

“Don’t give up on your dreams, even if you don’t win or make it through the first rounds, because there’s a reason why you were voted in and a reason why you wanted to tryout, because of your passion for music,” he said. “Keep practicing and keep pursuing your dream.”

Audition applications and presale discount tickets for the Santa Barbara Teen Star finale March 3 are available online at the Santa Barbara Teen Star Facebook page and at the Granada box office. Click here for more information.

Lambert Productions thanks the following sponsors for their generosity and support: Kathy and Assad Mora, the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians and Bryant & Sons Jewelers.

Noozhawk iSociety columnist Melissa Walker can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkSociety, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

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