Radio personality and judge Catherine Remak described “the most brilliant moment of Teen Star history” as being Mary-Grace Langhorne’s first of two performances at Saturday night’s Teen Star Santa Barbara competition. The audience, also enamored of 13-year-old Langhorne, voted her Teen Star Santa Barbara 2014.
The Granada Theatre was sold-out for this fourth annual talent showcase. Randy Spendlove, president of music for Paramount Pictures, advised the contestants, “Take a deep breath, relax, and bring it!” J.J. Lambert hosted the evening, which kicked off with an animated group song and dance accompanied by False Puppet drummer Brennan Benko. The evening progressed with short performances from each of the 10 teen vocalists, who pulled their songs from a variety of genres, including Latin and country. Audience members selected the contest’s four finalists by texting in their vote, which left Langhorne battling it out against Dylan Ortega, Karlie Mack, and Luana Psaros for top prize. Judge Wendy Kurtzman’s reacted to Langhorne’s performance of Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good” by saying, “I don’t know where you brought me, but I want to go back over and over and over again.”
Allie Nixon, winner of last year’s Teen Star, entertained the audience as the final votes were tallied. She performed one of the five original songs that she recorded for the CW television show Saved. All the contestants then took the stage as Lambert announced the winner, and Langhorne accepted her title with tears streaming down her face.
Afterward, Langhorne had trouble forming sentences and described the experience like being “frozen to her feet with joy.” The 7th grader at Goleta Valley Junior High said she readied herself for the event by expecting to lose. Most of the finalists are high school students and a couple have participated in Teen Star in the past, she explained. But the age difference was not evident when Langhorne appeared on stage in a long, elegant black gown with hair pulled back. Dom Camardella, music producer and owner of Santa Barbara Sound Design, held one-on-one mentoring sessions with each of the finalists to prepare for the evening and described Langhorne as a “sweet soul.” Langhorne heeded his encouragement to be expressive and soulfully swayed as she sang. Despite her poise onstage, she appeared completely flustered by her win.
Langhorne will receive a $1,000 scholarship and recording time at Santa Barbara Sound Design, and the contestants will perform together again when they open for Foreigner this summer at the Santa Barbara Bowl. Langhorne asserted that she’ll also be back for Teen Star 2015.