Young talents invited to show their stuff

Published August 22, 2006

ST. PETERSBURG - The search is on for the bay area's brightest budding stars.

Everyone's Youth United is holding its 12th annual Talent Search Expo this month. Auditions began Saturday in Sarasota and will be held throughout the Tampa Bay area during the coming weeks.

Contestants, ages 10 to 30, can show up to any audition location to compete in one of five categories - group, solo, rap, dance and miscellaneous.

The goal of the search is to provide young local artists with a venue to expose their talents and to educate them about the entertainment industry, said Eric Green, founder and CEO of EYU. But everything relates to the organization's goals.

"The mission always has been to reach out to the youth in the community, give them something to do in their spare time, and ultimately give them the tools to help them make healthy decisions," Green said.

One of last year's winners, dancer Gwenetta Martin, now 19, had this advice for entrants: "Just go in with a good head. "Know that you're the best, and you want to have butterflies - that's a good sign."

The talent competition began in 2000, with the birth of EYU, when a group of students in the secular organization decided to spearhead the event. That year there were about 20 acts that participated, and EYU gave out $250 in prize money.

This year organizers are expecting about 500 acts to audition in the preliminaries, 30 of which will be invited to the semifinals. That number is halved for the finals.

The grand prize for this year's winner is $1,000, a demo package, a photo shoot and a promotional package. The runnerup gets $500, a photo shoot and a promotional package, and third place garners $250 and a promotional package.

Between the semifinals on Sept. 17 and the finals on Sept. 30, there will be an educational forum for the finalists, where they will spend an afternoon learning about the ins and outs of the entertainment business.

Sitting on the judges' panel for the final show will be Danny Simmons, brother of celebrity businessman Russell Simmons, and local recording jazz artist Eric Darius.