Tenafly’s Got Talent 2021


Karis Cho, Staff Writer

The hum of nervous energy in the air transitions slowly into the shadows, and a silvery sound of sonorous singing pierces the darkness. The crowd’s approval is expressed in thunderous claps and cheers that fill the night. On Friday, December 10, the Tenafly’s Got Talent Committee and the THS S.O. hosted the first ever combined Tenafly-Cresskill, Tenafly’s Got Talent. 

A long-standing tradition at Tenafly, in which students in the district are able to perform their various talents, Tenafly’s Got Talent has a special twist: audiences get to choose the night’s winners. After all the contestants from each of the school levels (elementary, middle, and high schools) perform, the audience has the chance to vote on their favorite performance from each school. Between the three finalists, the audience then decides who will receive the $250 cash prize and get crowned as the Tenafly’s Got Talent winner. 

Grace Chung (’24) and Jonathan Fromm (’25) were this year’s hosts for the magnetic evening. The panelist of judges consisted of Tenafly district teachers, including Tenafly High School’s drama teacher, Ms. Bronwen Eastwood, Tenafly High School’s digital art teacher, Mr. Andrew Graziano, and former lead singer of a Spanish rock band and Spanish teacher at Tenafly Middle School, Ms. Elizabeth Diaz-Gallardo.

The days leading up to the grand night consisted of arduous and strenuous work. The first order of business for the Tenafly’s Got Talent committee was to make decisions on how ticket prices were going to work, finally settling on $20 for adults and free admissions for students. Mr. Rendell, a Biology teacher at THS, was the real star and coordinator of the show, and “with the help of members of the staff and student body, [he] coordinated auditions, spearheaded publicity, organized the student committee, directed the final production and sent and received a lot emails to students, parents, staff, and local businesses.” As Mr. Rendell explained, there was also a lot more than what meets the eye to the final production of the show: “The TGT student committee ended up turning away a lot of very talented students to create a show that would run under three hours long. They had to make a lot of difficult choices.” As a part of the committee myself, I would agree that the most tolling part of the process was hand-picking 22 out of 68 versatile acts that were suited for the stage. Ranging from K-12, the acts were all well-rounded and thought out, so sorting between them was a difficult process. After the initial elimination and weeks of additional practice on the contestants’ parts, Wednesday, December 8th and Thursday, December 9th came––the final rehearsal days where the plethora of talent was consolidated together. 

Friday, December 10th crept up, and the night of the show arrived. The ballots and pamphlets, prepared by the Tenafly’s Got Talent Committee, were ready for distribution, and the crowd waited in anticipation. The buzz in the air increased as the seats slowly filled up, and the never-ending sea of people would not stop flowing through the narrow Tenafly High School auditorium doors. The Tenafly’s Got Talent committee and staff then ran into their first surprise of the night: the number of attendees exceeded the number of seats. As Mr. Rendell said, “we ended up having to simulcast the show in the chorus room and library media center.” 

Counting the ballots, then, was no easy task. Sorting and tallying over 300 ballots in such a limited time constraint should have been considered a talent in itself––and this feat happened backstage. To stall for time and give the committee some space for a couple of breaths, Zoe Koblence, last year’s winner of Tenafly’s Got Talent, and Clara Pimenta, the 2019 winner of Tenafly’s Got Talent, both re-appeared for encore performances.

After a long night of show-stopping performances, the long anticipated winner of Tenafly’s Got Talent 2021 was a band from the high school group: Tenafly High School students including lead singer Ryan Kim (’23), guitarist William Ying (’23), and drummer John Yoon (’23), and saxophonist Philip Om (’24) from Cresskill High School. Tenafly’s Got Talent marked the first collaboration between the group members, who had been greatly looking forward to playing and performing music together. The four members were thankful for the opportunity to perform a classic jazz medley of Frank Sinatra’s “Fly Me to The Moon” and Bill Withers and Grover Washington Jr.’s “Just The Two of Us.”

Ryan Kim admits that he didn’t expect to win and was at a loss of words. “My group knew there were gonna be a lot of talented acts and because of that we tempered our expectations. We knew we had talent and chemistry, but to be honest our private rehearsals weren’t anything special,” Kim said. “Before the actual performance I remember telling them to have fun and express themselves on the stage, and I genuinely went out to put on a show and I think the rest of my group members would say the same.” Everyone gets stage-fright before a big show. Kim described his nervousness: “Beforehand it was really stressful and obviously there were the expected butterflies in my stomach and slight lightheadedness. My group members were all great at keeping their nerves under control, however, as before the performance we shared lots of laughs and enjoyed watching the phenomenal acts before us.”

It was an amazing experience for many performers. “Getting on the stage was a blur and I was honestly having the time of my life sharing this experience with my friends in both the band and the audience,” Kim said. This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for him, and as Kim describes, it was “definitely one of the best moments of my life and was truly a dream come true.” 

Mr. Rendell praised the show, too. “I think the show was great this year,” he said. “It was a particularly wonderful year after having to perform the show virtually last year. I almost forgot how incredible it is for the contestants to perform in front of a live audience until the first performance ended and the loud applause filled the auditorium… All the performers were tremendous.” After doing this for many years, Mr. Rendell also explained his experience and perceptions of the show: “I do enjoy the show every year because every year the show is very different. There are some performers that come back and perform in the show again while there are always many new acts. I also love being part of live theater and enjoy working with the performers, the tech crew, and, especially, Mr. Moger.” Mr. Rendell said he was “thankful for the wonderful staff members that consistently volunteer to judge the event as well as those who agree to chaperone the event,” and is thankful to the larger Tenafly community for supporting the show. As the process is tiring, “every year [Mr. Rendell] questions whether the process is worth the product and [he is] never sure of the answer until the night of the show. At which point, the answer is always a resounding, ‘Yes!’”