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NAHANT — Young winners of Nahant’s online talent competition were thrilled to receive video shout-outs Monday from well-known personalities, including classical cellist Yo-Yo Ma, actor Blake Clark, artist Norman Laliberté, and chef Christina Tosi.
The event’s organizer, Juliette Guidara, said the idea of an online talent competition came to her while searching for a fun distraction for local children and their families during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Inspired by her daughter-in-law, Milk Bar founder Christina Tosi’s, television appearances as a judge on MasterChef Junior, Guidara wanted to make her idea as fun as possible.
“Having watched Christina on Master Chef Junior for years, I thought of a virtual video contest,” Guidara said. In addition to cooking, Guidara came up with three more categories, music, art, and entertainment, to invite a wider range of talent.
She then immediately organized a conference call with Nahant friends, Ute Gfrerer, Laurie Nash, and Caitlin Ahern, to ask for help organizing the online event.
“I think it took less than a second for them all to sign up,” she said.
The organizers received 34 total entries by the April 4 deadline. Each judge was assigned a category to select winners for based on a number of factors.
“I sat down with my husband and we rated each video based on creativity, talent, and personality … then we counted the points (to select our) winners,” said Guidara, who judged entries for the entertainment category. “Many videos came in last-minute, so we had to make decisions fairly quickly.”
Through personal connections, Guidara was able to arrange video shoutouts from Tosi, Blake Clark, and Nahant-based abstract artist Norman Laliberté.
Impressed with the skills displayed by music winners Julie and Anna Schuemann, music judge Ute Gfrerer reached out to Grammy-winning Ma, whom she met previously through her work as an opera singer.
“These two girls, they connected with each other while they were playing, and they really concentrated on the music. It was very cool,” she said. “They were classical pianists, so I felt they needed a classical person to give them a shout-out.”
When she contacted him, Gfrerer said Ma was happy to give words of encouragement to the young musicians.
“He was immediately willing to do that and he just did such a lovely job. He was such a generous and genuine person,” she said.
According to the judges, some particularly memorable entries included a basketball video with a bloopers segment and a paper maché kitten.
“(I) was really happy,” nine-year-old Eliana Uzcategui said of taking first place in the Artistry category for her painting of a whale.
After her win, the budding artist, who enjoys painting and has won contests in the past, researched Laliberté‘s work. “I like it because there are a lot of colors,” she said.
Uzcategui’s mother, Debbie, said she thought the contest was a great distraction for children and parents stuck inside all day due to the virus.
“It was so thoughtful of the organizers to put together,” she said. “It was something to really focus the kids during such a tough time.”
Although Guidara isn’t sure she would ever host another virtual talent contest (“the technical aspect was not fun,” she said), Guidara was impressed with the response from celebrity mentors and how quickly Nahant families came together for the event.
“The celebrity videos were a highlight — I was blown away by the sincerity and enthusiasm from all of them,” she said. “This town is really special in supporting our community. It’s a special place to live.”
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