Do You Have What It Takes? Kean Quest Searches for the Next Big Star!

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By Jill Greenwood

If you think you’ve got what it takes to become the next Jackie Evancho, we’ve got the opportunity for you!
The 2016 Kean Quest Talent Search attracts singers of all ages and has seen its share of amazing talent since launching in 2004. Richland Township’s own Jackie Evancho, who was the runner up in the nationally acclaimed 2010 America’s Got Talent, was a contestant in 2009 in what was then known as Kean Idol.

Another 2009 Kean Idol alum is Pittsburgh’s Chris Jamison, who wowed millions of viewers last year with a third-place finish on The Voice. Both Jamison and Evancho credit the experience they got at the Kean Theatre as helping to pave the way toward their future success.
Now in its 13th season, Kean Quest has steadily gained popularity with nearly 200 contestants in 2015 in both youth and adult competitions. This year, the adults (19 and older) will vie for a $1,000 cash prize, while the youth (18 and under) will compete for a recording session. The event is for amateurs and is open to anyone who is not currently signed to a recording contract.
The youth portion of the 2016 competition begins in February and will go through March, with the youth finals scheduled for April 1, where Jackie Evancho will present prizes to the winners. The adult portion of the competition will take place on April 15 with the winners chosen that night.
Contestants who score well in the preliminary rounds move on to the semifinals and then the finals. They’re judged on three factors: talent, stage presence, and presentation. The audience also gets to vote and will select a winner from each round. Celebrity judges include: Tim Ruff, Logan Roland, Nelson Harrison, and Casey Hanner.
Last season’s Kean Quest Champion, Shailen Abram, 18, a student at Pittsburgh Creative and Performing Arts School, amazed the audience with not just his singing, but also his incredible talents on the piano. Abram is legally blind and has been compared to a young Stevie Wonder, a singer he idolizes.
Gabby Barrett, 15, the 2014 Kean Quest Champion, has sung the national anthem at Pittsburgh Steelers and Pirates games and has opened before thousands of people at country music concerts, where she has been noticed by country music stars Keith Urban and Hunter Hayes. Barrett has her own songs on iTunes and Amazon and is currently working on her first album as she pursues her dream as a singer and performer.
The grand prize for the youth competition includes a recording session at Audible Images, a Grammy award-winning recording studio. The winners will also get professional headshots that can be used by an agent for promotions, if they plan to pursue a career in music or acting.
The Jackie Evancho award is presented each year to a contestant who has competed in Kean Quest for two or more years and doesn’t give up no matter where he or she places in the contest. Jackie will present the 6th annual Jackie Evancho Award to the winner. Since her success on America’s got Talent, she has issued five albums, including a platinum and a gold album.
While Kean Quest is a talent competition, it is primarily a charity fundraiser. The money raised through ticket sales will benefit St. Barnabas Charities. The St. Barnabas Free Care Fund provides approximately $6 million in free care to patients each year.
Contestants must sign up for one preliminary round and be prepared to compete in the semifinals if they are selected. F

Register Now! Call 724-625-3770 or visit

2016 Kean Quest Schedule
• Preliminary Rounds 1, 2: Sunday, Feb. 7, 1 p.m./5 p.m.
• Preliminary Rounds 3, 4: Sunday, Feb. 21, 1 p.m./5 p.m.
• Youth Semifinal 1: Sunday, March 6, 2 p.m.
• Youth Semifinal 2: Sunday, March 13, 2 p.m.
• Youth Finals with Jackie Evancho: Friday, April 1, 7 p.m.
• Adult competition and completion, all in one night: Friday, April 15, 7 p.m.