top of page

West Hold Their Annual Talent Show

Night of the Rising Stars winners Rachel Vangelist (left) and Jackson Outland (right) with Ms. Deborah Belknap (center)
Photo from Deborah Belknap

Frances Boone, Graphics and Photography

Sunday, December 3, 2023

(Patriot Press) - For over 20 years, students at West Carteret have been able to showcase their unique gifts through the annual talent show: The Night of the Rising Stars. On Tuesday, November 7, fourteen students displayed their talents through captivating acts: singing, dancing, and even stand-up comedy!

Rachel Vangelist and Jackson Outland kicked off the night with their moving duet of “Suddenly Seymour.” Following this act, the audience was awed by two beautiful ballads: Conner Creech singing “Half Hearted” by Melanie Martinez and McKinley Schoden singing “Being Alive” by Stephen Sondheim. Between singing performances, Emi Jo Kell delivered a powerful contemporary dance to “Station.” Afterward, Amelia Lewis sent the audience soaring with the song “Birds.” Emma Leary then delivered a beautiful performance of “Imagine” on the electric ukulele. Following Emma, Logan Woolard supplied some light-hearted comedy in his side-splitting stand-up routine. Next, Thomas Murray captivated the audience with his rendition of “Don’t Let Me Go.” While Thomas’ upbeat act brought a smile to showgoers’ faces, Tori Washington soon brought tears to their eyes with her poignant performance of “Reckless.” Rachel Vangelist then returned to blow the audience away once more, this time with the song “Don’t Rain On My Parade.” Next up was Rebecca Harlow, who performed a passionate dance to “A Million Dreams.” Jackson Outland also returned, this time with an interactive rendition of the song “Popular.” The last official act of the night was the band The Orion (Maggie Golightly, Jude Golightly, Analeigh Pellecer, Carter Matthews), harnessing the energy of the audience with their performance of “Zombie.”

Following all of the acts, the judges were sent out to deliberate on which would receive the Top 3 honors. While they deliberated, the audience was treated to a special appearance by Aspen Zorowski, winner of the 2019 Night of the Rising Stars. Expertly playing on acoustic guitar, Aspen sang a moving song she’d written herself. Following her performance, The Orion returned for an encore act. During their rendition of “Enter Sandman,” audience members were able to vote for the “People’s Choice Award,” selecting their favorite act via Google Form link.

After much consideration, the time had come for the judges’ decision to be announced. Jackson Outland’s performance was certainly “popular” with the judges and audience, earning third place overall and a $40 prize! A freshman at West,  Jackson is an active member of the Thespian Society. He is also in the chorus program, and performed a solo in this year’s Fall Concert.

Second place and a $50 prize went to Emi Jo Kell. A junior at West, Emi Jo has been dancing for over 10 years and has trained in ballet, tap, jazz, lyrical/contemporary, and hip-hop. While she admitted it can be nerve-wracking to perform in front of so many peers, Emi Jo shared that dancing has helped build her confidence and taught her many life lessons. “Never be afraid to pursue your dreams,” she shared. “It’s your own world and you can do whatever you want, no matter what people tell you.”

First place and a prize of $60 were awarded to Rachel Vangelist and Jackson Outland for their performance of  “Suddenly Seymour.” Currently in her final year at West, Rachel has starred in various WCHS shows and community theater productions. She wields over ten years of theater and dance experience, now focusing her career path primarily on theater and film. When asked what motivated her to showcase her talent to West Carteret, Rachel shared that she aims to show people she’s capable of more than what they may think.

“Honestly, proving myself to people is a huge part of my personality,” she revealed. “Going up on that stage and doing what I do satisfies a part of me that I cannot even put into words.”

Lastly, the People’s Choice Award went to none other than The Orion. Lead vocalist Maggie Golightly has been performing for over ten years in a variety of musical forms, from piano to marching band. "I wanted to showcase my band’s talent to West Carteret because I wanted people to see the blend of amazing sound we have in this band,” Maggie shared. “It’s something different, people are in roles that create a wonderful sound when we all get together, and every member brings a creative spin to our performances.” It’s clear that the audience agreed, because the Orion certainly was a fan favorite.

2023’s Night of the Rising Stars was certainly a night to remember. I could not have been luckier than to be able to witness the passion and dedication possessed by each performer come to life. Patriots, do yourself a favor next year and mark the Night of the Rising Stars on your calendar: if it’s anything like this year’s show, you won’t want to miss it! Better yet–step onto the stage and audition yourself. We cannot wait to see your talent shine!

bottom of page