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Students showcase their talents in competition

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Tim Tuiasosopo, 20, a sophomore majoring in civil engineering at Colorado State University-Pueblo, said he didn’t expect to take first place honors for his vocal performance at the CSU-Pueblo’s Got Talent held Tuesday at the Occhiato University Center ballroom.

Josh Tatofi, 18, a freshman majoring in sociology, agreed, saying competition was fierce, and that he and Tuiasosopo, with whom he partnered for the event, decided to just enjoy themselves.

“I heard the other acts perform and thought, ‘Wow, they’re good,’” Tuiasosopo said.  Tatofi added, “We didn’t expect to win and decided to just have fun.”

First place winner, Tim Tuiasosopo, does a victory dance when he learns he and his partner, Josh Tatofi, won first place.  photo by Zak Bratton
First place winner, Tim Tuiasosopo, does a victory dance when he learns he and his partner, Josh Tatofi, won first place. photo by Zak Bratton

As it turned out Tatofi and Tuiasosopo won $200 and a standing ovation for their performance.  Now in its second year, CSU-Pueblo’s Got Talent was held as a way for faculty, staff and students to share their acting, dancing, musical, reading and writing abilities with campus personnel, said Kellie Close, student events coordinator for CSU-Pueblo’s Office of Student Activities.

Approximately 300 people attended the event, Close said.

The 11 acts consisted of seven musical and three dance numbers, and one poetry-reading performance.  The audience whistled and cheered as the first act entered the stage which, according to Close, did more than hint at a fun-filled evening.

Judges were Close, Gena Alfonso, coordinator, Student Life; and Stig Jantz, undergraduate advisor, Hasan School of Business.

“We were excited to see what talent people brought to the event,” Close said.

Following the performances, the top six acts returned for a second round performance.

Tatofi and Tuiasosopo won for their acoustic guitar and vocal performance of, “Forever And This Love We Share,” which Tatofi said he sang to his girlfriend.  Tatofi and Tuiasosopo said they didn’t know they might have to return to the stage and hastily prepared a second number.  Because of their unpreparedness, Tatofi and Tuiasosopo said they believed they didn’t have a chance of winning the contest.

“We weren’t prepared to perform again and had to improvise as quickly as possible,” said Tatofi as he wiped his brow with the back of his hand.

Tatofi and Tuiasosopo said their prize money will buy school supplies.

“You improvised well for not having a second number prepared,” Close said.

“Your voices and harmonies are incredible – I’m impressed,” Alfonso added.         

Soul Steppers:DiShane Wescott, Quaneisha Collins, Britney Graham, Karisma McChristian, Nyeka Moore and Selah Russell    photo by Zak Bratton
Soul Steppers:DiShane Wescott, Quaneisha Collins, Britney Graham, Karisma McChristian, Nyeka Moore and Selah Russell photo by Zak Bratton

The second place prize of $100 went to the six-member Soul Steppers for their synchronized dance routine.  DiShane Wescott, 22, a senior majoring in exercise science, said the group wanted to give a performance Pueblo normally doesn’t experience.  Wescott said he tore his glasses from his face and tossed them onto the floor at the start of the number because he didn’t want them restricting his performance.

“The group worked hard on this routine, and I didn’t want anything to hamper our effort,” Wescott said.

Dancers are: Quaneisha Collins, 20, a freshman majoring in pre-business; Britney Graham, 20, a junior majoring in exercise science; Karisma McChristian, 20, a sophomore majoring in pre-business; Nyeka Moore, 20, a sophomore majoring in psychology, and Selah Russell, 20, a sophomore majoring in exercise science.

Wescott said the group will use their prize money to buy uniforms.

“I love your commitment to performance excellence.  Perhaps you could perform your routine in class sometime,” Jantz said, laughing.

“I enjoyed the creativity you brought to the stage,” Close added. 

Tom Rowland, 19, a freshman majoring in exercise science, secured third place honors for reciting poetry.  Rowland said he started writing poetry in middle school and takes advantage of every opportunity to share his work with the public.

“I was confident about my performance, but cheered for the other performers who were great,” Rowland said.

Rowland said he will buy Christmas presents with his $50.

 “You put a lot of heart into your poetry,” Alfonso said.  “It’s one thing to write poetry but another to share it with the public.”

“I admire your courage to share yourself on stage,” Jantz added.

Students who also performed at the event were:

Dance – Ivan Aragona, (age unavailable) sophomore, industrial engineering major; Marquis Cox, 21, freshman, mass communications major; Paul Dickens, 21, freshman, pre-business major, and Devin Grimes, 21, freshman, pre-business major.

Music – La Terrell Burrows, 18, freshman, mass communications major; Steve Herrera, 19, freshman, business major; Courtney Morrison, 20, junior, music major with education minor;Vanessa D. Rodriguez, 19, freshman, pre-business major; Elise Solano, 23, senior, business management major, and Darrell Wernsman, 19, freshman, music major.

Guitarist/vocalist Wernsman teamed up with guitarist/vocalist Zak Young, 18, a senior at Central High School to perform their own composition, “Ashes to Ashes.”

“Zak and I write and perform together, and we figured tonight was a good way to share our music,” Wernsman said.

Elise Solano sings Hallelujah. photo by Zak Bratton
Elise Solano sings Hallelujah. photo by Zak Bratton

Solano sang the Leonard Cohen composition, “Hallelujah,” made popular in the 2001 movie, Shrek, but started crying halfway through the number.

“I can’t continue.  I’m sorry – I lost my grandma recently, and this song made me think of her,” Solano told the audience.

Guitarist/vocalist Herrera said he draws musical inspiration from the 60s British rock group, The Beatles.  He said he also likes comedy and couldn’t resist performing a parody of the John Lennon and Paul McCartney composition, “Yesterday.”

“I haven’t had a haircut in a year,” said Herrera as he removed his cap and exposed his shoulder-length, coal black hair.  “This proves I love the Beatles.”
 
Students also commented on the performances.

“I came here tonight to see what kind of talent Pueblo has, and I’m not disappointed,” said Jordan Williams, 19, a sophomore majoring in engineering.

“It takes courage to perform for people you don’t know,” said Emily Hofmann, 18, a freshman majoring in pre-nursing.  “I hope Tim (Tuiasosopo) and Josh (Tatofi) win the contest because they perform well together.”

Event Manager Alicia Beaver, 19, a sophomore majoring in mass communications, said the event offered something for everyone.  Close said she was pleased with the performances and hopes holding the event during homecoming week will become a CSU-Pueblo tradition.

“The economy made it difficult to find sponsorship for the money prizes,” Close said.  “Otherwise, everything went well in planning for this event.”