Franklin serves up Taste of Talent

Franklin's seventh annual Taste of Talent competition kicks off at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Bandstand Park.

This coming Wednesday Bandstand Park in Franklin will be filled with spectators waiting to catch the first glimpse of this year’s Taste of Talent competitors. This will be Franklin’s seventh annual Taste of Talent. Concerts will take place at 7 p.m. Wednesdays from June 29 to July 27. The semi-finals will be held at 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 6, at 7 p.m. and the finals will be held at 4 p.m. Sunday, August 7, at following the Taste of Franklin event.

In the past, each one of the shows brought in 800 to 1,400 audience members to the park. Organizers often begin to set up chairs as early at 7 a.m., Ronnie Beith, Franklin Events coordinator, said.

“It is definitely the favorite event of the summer,” she said. “People come to watch from as far as Erie for the live talent show in such a beautiful setting.”

Beith said there will also be food vendors set up in the park selling baked goods, coffee, fruit, ice cream and more.

This year’s judges are Tammi Dahl and Nat Licht with Jerry Greffley as an alternate. Jeff Corbett runs all of the sound for the events and has been highly praised for his work, Beith said. The winner will receive $1,000 from Lamb and Webster while the three semi-finalists will each receive $100 cash from Jake and Nancy Lindsey and a $100 gift card from the Franklin Retail Association.

The following people are 2016’s Taste of Talent competitors:

Zachary Balog is 19 years old and lives in Franklin. He is enrolled at Westminster College. Balog never had any type of formal musical training but grew up singing any song on the radio. It wasn’t until high school that he tried out for the school musical and was given the lead roll. After that Steve Luxbacher, the Oil City Choir Director, gave him lessons in voice. He currently plays the guitar and piano. Balog went to Venango Catholic High School and graduated in 2015.

Tyler Carson is highly involved in music at Rocky Grove High School where he will be beginning his senior year, taking two semesters’-worth of piano and music theory that have assisted him in becoming more versatile and skilled in his music career. He also has played guitar for 6 years as well as other instruments, such as the drum set and the trumpet. He comes from a home of six just outside of Cooperstown where he lives with his parents Todd and Terri Carson, his younger sister Madison and his grandparents, Charles and Mary Bennet. He was a runner-up in the Final 4 in last year’s Taste of Talent competition and looks forward to competing once again. He would also like to wish the other competitors good luck in this year’s contest

Lisa Cook lives in Cooperstown with her husband, Dave, and two children, Paige and Carter, ages 10 and 13. She is a property inspector for a company called Mueller Reports and has been singing for about 10 years. She has been the lead singer of a band called Joyride for three years. The band plays play covers of everything from classic and ’80s rock to modern rock, country and blues. “My family is my life and music is her passion,” she said.

Competitor Scott Kennedy’s full name is Braden Scott Kennedy, but he goes by Scott. Throughout his life, music has been a huge part during the troubled times and the great. He was a bass/baritone in Oil City Senior High School under the direction of Steve Luxbacher. His mother is Juanita Kennedy and she is his inspiration and his rock in life. He was born in Dade City, Florida, and moved to Pennsylvania at a young age.

Joseph Lillard is a 21-year-old college student who attends Clarion University for early childhood special education. He is from Oil City. In the summers, he works for the YWCA Summer Playground, where he is assigned to the Rocky Grove playground. At Clarion, he is a founding father of the Sigma Chi Theta Alpha Chapter, the sports editor for The Clarion Call, writer for The Odyssey, set construction helper for the theater department, participant in Clarion’s production of the “Vagina Monologues,” secretary and community relations chair for the interfraternity Council (IFC) and volunteer at Immaculate Conception parish. He started singing when he hurt his knee in college as a form of stress relief. This is his third year participating in the Taste of Talent contest. During his first year he made it to the semifinals, which were three days after his knee surgery. Lillard sang that round from a lawn chair.

Mitch Littler is a 24-year-old, Oil City grad and former oil field roustabout whose office was in the deep woods of northwestern Pennsylvania. He said he is working hard to develop his career as a singer songwriter that hails from a musical family that goes back four generations. His music reflects a blues and folk blend that he took to the 2016 Juke Joint Festival in Clarksdale, Mississippi, where he was invited to play. There he met many blues legends. In addition to performing with his church worship team, along with his younger brother Truman, he performs solo at many area venues. Littler also lends his time hosting open mics which he hopes will help foster the local talent. He also leads the family band, the South Side String Kings.

The band has performed at local events and most recently they have entertained as the house band at several airline launches for Southern Airways Express. He serves as a member of the Oil City Main Street steering committee. Littler is striving to build his career as a musician and looks forward to going as far as his hard work and dedication will take him. He is the son of Dan and Lisa Littler of Oil City.

Nicole McCann is a 19-year-old from Titusville. Her background in music goes back to when she was young and first sang “Jesus Take the Wheel” at a wedding reception in karaoke and her family members were all in shock. She has never taken singing lessons but she has had guitar lessons in school and some piano lessons. “This is my third round of Taste of Talent,” McCann said. She has a healthy four-month-old son whose name is Myles Platt. She has been accepted to Clarion University online for an associate’s degree in early childcare education and she will start the course in August.

Randy Moorehead is excited to have been selected to compete in his third year of the competition. He is a 31-year-old singer and songwriter from Oil City. He is the soon-to-be former lead singer of the band Constant Distraction. He said he feels blessed with what he has been able to accomplish with his music career. He has two children Conner and Olivia who drive her through all of life’s decisions. He said he looks forward to competing once again.

Cassy Powley, 18, is competing in her third year in the Taste of Talent contest. She has been singing in public for six years and plays eight instruments. She has been to county, district, and region choir, as well as district and region band. She has a country band called CP and the Leftovers.

Ashlee Black, a Knox native, lives in Cranberry. She is an LPN and is pursuing her RN and then her master’s degree. Black has a five-year-old son named Connor. She said she likes to be outside and spend time with her small family.

Deanna Wolfgong has been singing since she was young and was in choir all through middle and high school. She has performed with a group called Music Buddies in Franklin for about two years and learned about music therapy from her band director’s wife. Wolfgong went to Slippery Rock University where she studied music therapy and majored in voice. She is the owner of DS Music Therapy, a music therapy private practice based in Franklin. This fall she will be attending Slippery Rock University once again to obtain her master’s degree in music therapy. She lives in Rocky Grove with her dad, two sisters, niece, and her fur-kid, Baxter.

Joni Zacherl, 16, will be a junior at Clarion-Limestone High School this fall. She lives in Clarion with her parents, Robin and Larry, twin sister Taylor and little sister Emma. Over the years, she has sung in her school’s talent show multiple times, in various singing competitions and at the Jefferson County Fair. She has performed in “Shrek the Musical” and will be a member of the Sensations show choir this fall. Zacherl has been a percussionist in her high school band for six years and has been playing piano for nine years.