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Sterling performances highlight Valley Talent Project. So who were the winners?

Singer, spoken word performer tie for grand prize at Valley Talent Project

Singer Sarah Snyder and Poet San Pierstorff took home top honors at the Valley Talent Project competition on Saturday, Aug. 5, 2018, at the Gallo Center for the Arts.
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Singer Sarah Snyder and Poet San Pierstorff took home top honors at the Valley Talent Project competition on Saturday, Aug. 5, 2018, at the Gallo Center for the Arts.

A singer and a spoken word performer were to top acts this weekend at the Valley Talent Project at Gallo Center for the Arts.

Sarah Snyder and Sam Pierstorff split the top prize of $3,000 by winning E.&J. Gallo Winery Grand Prize.

The two-day competition on Friday and Saturday, in its ninth year, brought together 24 of the top up-and-coming artists in the Central Valley. They performed the same act both nights for the crowd and judges.

Snyder, of Turlock, performing “Wildflower” and accompanied by guitarist Juan Irachett, put together two flawless, soulful efforts to the delight of the crowd. Pierstorff, of Modesto, drew laughs with his passionate message to the twenty-somethings in his poem “A Letter to Millennials About Marriage from a 43-year-old Man.”

The event drew competitors from mostly the Modesto area, but as far north as Sacramento and to the south from Merced.

A diverse mixture of singers, dancers, instrumentalists — some as young as 11 — were competing for a prize of $750 awarded for winners in each category. It took months of auditions to get the number of acts down to two dozen.

Aside from the E.&J. Gallo Grand Prize winners (Sarah Snyder and Sam Pierstorff), 10 acts took home $750 awards at the Valley Talent Project at the Gallo Center for the Arts in Modesto, California, on Friday and Saturday, Aug. 4-5, 2018.

Here are the winners of the $750 prizes.

  • Jocelyn Baliel, 15, of Modesto won the Grace Lieberman Female Vocal Talent Achievement Award sponsored by the Bob & Marie Gallo Foundation. She performed “I’d Rather Go Blind” and was accompanied on the guitar by Ryan Marcella.
  • Stevie Vasquez, 24, of Ceres, in his emotional “Keep on Loving You,” with Jeff Moore on the drums, won the Grace Lieberman Male Vocal Talent Achievement Award sponsored by the Bob & Marie Gallo Foundation.
  • Jack Douglass, 14, of Riverbank engaged the crowd with his playful piano performance of “Tetris Ragtime.” He won the Paul Tischer Classical Music Scholarship.
  • Aesthetic Dance Company, based in Livingston and with dancers aged 11 to 17, put on a crowd-pleasing hip-hop dance routine to win both The Modesto Bee Audience Favorite Award (by audience vote on Friday) and the Dance Ensemble Talent Achievement Award.
  • us4Love, a Modesto-based band featuring Tyler Bates (vocals, guitar), Christina Bates (vocals), Stephen Flanagan (drums) and Andru Vigil (bass), performed “Hard” and won the Chris Murphy/Modestoview Original Composition Award with a clean, crisp effort.
  • James Knight of Modesto, with a magic card trick, won the Specialty Talent Achievement Award.
  • Bella Fisicaro, 14, and Nathan Kounlavouth, 18, both of Modesto, tied for the Clark & Marion Bradford Dance Solo or Duet Talent Achievement Award
  • Modesto-based teen band Indie Daze, with Lily Wohlstadter (lead vocals, guitar), Mason Aloisio (guitar), Jacob Cardoza (bass guitar), Hazel Lee (keyboards, backup vocals) and Ameena Pierstorff (drums), performed “Higher Than Before” and won the KHOP Band Talent Achievement Award.
  • Josh Mendiola, 13, of Waterford performed the intricate “Bumble Boogie” and won the ATTY Instrumental Talent Achievement Award.

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