By Kyah Corff

SY Valley Star intern

Through hard work and extraordinary singing ability, high school freshman Jake Gildred has been selected from hundreds of competitors as a finalist in this year’s Teen Star Santa Barbara competition.

The contest gives him an opportunity to be coached professionally and win a scholarship while representing local youth and raising money for arts programs at Santa Ynez Valley Union High School.

Solvang Elementary student Elizabeth Padfield is also a finalist for the big show Saturday, Feb. 24, at the Arlington Theatre in Santa Barbara.

“I decided to audition because it’s a really exciting opportunity to showcase my talent and grow as a singer, and because it opens the doors to new chances to showcase my talent to the community,” Jake said.

On Feb. 24, the finalists will walk the red carpet and be photographed and interviewed by local news stations and newspapers at 6 p.m., and the competition will begin at 7 p.m.

Jake’s father, Stu Gildred, has rented a shuttle bus and says that anyone interested in getting a free ride to the show can call him at 805-252-1498.

A choreographed group number, including the 10 finalists and the lone alternate, will open the show. Then each finalist will perform one song for a group of celebrity judges and the audience. Then the audience members will vote electronically for their favorite. The top three singers will then perform a second song and the judges will select a winner.

The winner will receive a $1,000 scholarship and job opportunities, and get to open a show at the Santa Barbara Bowl. All finalists will also get funding for their school’s arts programs.

Jake is proud that he can support the high school’s arts programs, including the Theater Group, of which he is a member. He has been singing with his vocal coach, Joyce Michaels, since he was 6 years old and has always been interested in musical theater.

“Singing has been a way to express my emotions and get through the day,” he said.

He hopes to attend his dream school, the University of Michigan, to major in musical theater and then make a career performing on Broadway and teaching at a college like New York University.

The preparation for the Teen Star finals begins months in advance. Around 200 to 300 area teens audition with two songs and are interviewed by a panel of judges. Out of those, only 10 finalists and one alternate are chosen.

The singers have rehearsals for the choreographed group performance that opens the final competition, and they get private mentorship from renowned singer and songwriter Kenny Loggins.

“I appreciate this learning opportunity because it’s cool to evolve, and they give you a lot of independence. In the end, it’s all up to you as a performer and artist,” Jake said.

Through this experience, the performers create close friendships with each other as they develop their singing and leadership abilities. They learn from top performance artists and get opportunities to be on local news and radio stations. Before the competition, the contestants also receive free Deckers shoes and take part in a professional photo shoot.

The Teen Star singing competition also teaches life lessons, Jake noted.

“When you have that many people watching you, it’s hard to be afraid again. You gain confidence on stage,” he said.

Teen Star tickets can be purchased at the door or online at

Editor’s note

This story is written by Kyah Corff, an intern with the Star who is a junior at Santa Ynez Valley Union High School. She is one of the founders of the school’s journalism club and a member of the school’s theater group.

Kyah hopes to attend journalism school after high school, and the Star staff is happy to be mentoring her until then.