Monroe-Woodbury students win big at talent show

Monroe. A member of this year’s graduating class took home the top prize.

Monroe /
| 11 Jun 2024 | 01:50

The third annual Monroe’s Got Talent (MGT) June 8, at the Millponds saw a large crowd watch 22 acts compete for a chance to win prizes, as well as the acclaim of the community. Throughout the show, different genres of music were performed, including both instrumental and vocal. Among the panel of judges was Monroe Mayor Neil Dwyer.

Prizes for the top three winners included $50 gift certificates to Parm at Woodbury Common for the second and third-place winners, and $500 cash for first place. Monroe-Woodbury middle schooler Sophia Batista won third place, Monroe-Woodbury High School alum Jamie Calub won second place, and first place went to Bianca Mangonon, who will be graduating from MWHS later this month.

Third Place: Sophia Batista

Sophia Batista sang “Burn” from the musical “Hamilton.” She started performing at an early age. “I got into theater around first grade, and I started my singing career in about fifth grade,” she said. “I just loved everything about it. I loved theater in general. I loved the music.”

Batista, who will attending Monroe-Woodbury High School in the fall, added, “I enjoy doing theater in school and just recently performed ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ and played Audrey.”

Batista said she plans to attend America’s Got Talent in 2025 and hopes that her talent will grow into a career. “It’s always been my dream to be like an actor and all that. When I get older, I really do want to be on Broadway and continue my career with singing,” she said.

Second Place: Jamie Calub

Jamie Calub performed “Paint It Black” by the Rolling Stones. She started singing in elementary school. “My first talent show, I sang ‘Climb’ by Miley Cyrus,” said Calub. She is a 2023 graduate of Monroe-Woodbury High School and is now studying at Stonybrook University.

Calub’s family helped her prepare for her performance. “One of the people that inspires me to sing and play guitar is my dad. He actually workshopped this song with me for many hours before this very performance today. And I’m so glad that I got to spend that time with him and play guitar with him,” she said.

Calub has also performed music outside of MGT. “In terms of music, I’m still doing theater and I’m currently in an acapella group called the Pipettes where I actually took a lot of inspiration from going to other acapella groups’ performances for [“Paint It Black”]. So, I’m really grateful for all those groups,” said Calub. She will keep singing as a hobby and continue singing with her acapella group; she plans to enter MGT shows in the future.

First Place: Bianca Mangonon

First place winner Bianca Mangonon performed “Think of Me” from the musical, “Phantom of the Opera.” Mangonon also has a history of singing. “I’ve been singing since I was, probably a baby and my mom’s been involved in the choir. My parents are very involved with the church choir. I sing every Sunday and I sing at a lot of religious events,” she said.

She chose to sing “Think of Me” “because it was one of the last songs my voice lessons teacher taught me before she passed away when I was in fifth grade,” she said. She fondly remembers a quote from her singing teacher: “I wasn’t able to hit that high note at the end and she told me that ‘One day when you’re ready, you will be.’”

Surprisingly, Mangonon does not perform on stage often. “In high school, I actually helped design some of the sets for the musicals. I’ve always been more of a backstage type of person. I’ve never really been on stage expect for when we did ‘Les Misérables,’” she said. However, singing is a hobby she loves. She also loves to hear others who sing as well and wants to perform in future MGT shows.

She will be graduating from Monroe-Woodbury High School this year and will attend Parson’s School of Design in New York as an illustration major in the fall.

Fostering local talent

Monroe’s Got Talent organizer Peter Dawson said, “The whole idea behind that show is basically to give young folks an opportunity to perform in a professional setting.” The age restriction is five to 25, which he explained was so contestants would not have to compete against professionals.

The winners will now perform during the fireworks show on July 3. They may also perform at the Monroe Cheese Festival, the food truck festival, and reprisal shows for Monroe’s Got Talent.

Dawson moved to the area from northern NJ about 27 years ago when he met his wife. He previously worked in the banking. However, music is a major part of his life.

“I’m a lifelong musician. For many years, I played in the cover band called Reflex Blue and I met my wife at the Captain’s Table in Monroe playing in that band 27 years ago,” he said. “I’m part-time retired. I play in a duo called One Night Only. I handle the summer concert series for the Village of Monroe, and I run the Monroe’s Got Talent as the first show every year.”

Dawson is thankful for the support from the Monroe-Woodbury Central School District’s music department. He says that the music teachers are the reason the contestants have developed their talents so well.

Dawson also expressed a strong faith in the talent show’s future. “I’m expecting that this tradition will continue. I’m going to continue to do it as long as I’m able to do it,” he said. “As long as the village is supporting it, and the village is supporting it, we’re going to continue to do it.”