Showcasing the best at West

Millard West’s annual talent show highlights students’ skills


Photo by Miguel Paredes Reyes

Seniors Kaitlyn Neid and Bethany Folk sing a rendition of “Wonder” from ‘High School Musical: The Musical: The Series’. The event allowed students to showcase their unique talents and abilities. “I think the Best of West gave students the chance to see talents from kids all around the school,” senior and contestant Kaitlyn Neid said. “Since Millard West is such a big school, kids don’t often get to see kids outside of their activities. So it was fun to see people outside of things that I’m involved with and see what they could do.”

Kaden Roth, Catalyst Online Editor-in-Chief

Sounds of applause were heard coming from the auditorium on Friday, April 1, as Millard West’s annual talent show, Best of West, kicked off.

The talent show gives the students of West an opportunity to display their unique talents to a panel of judges who then rate the performances on a scale from one to 10 based on creativity, execution and stage presence. The show’s ticket proceeds and donations go to Special Musicians, a non-profit organization that works to open up opportunities for those with different abilities through music. 

Students had differing reasons for participating in the event, but all of them shared a desire to show off their talents with the hopes of having fun and connecting with others in the Millard West community. 

“I chose to take part in Best of West because it is something I have been interested in participating in since my freshman year but was always too nervous to sing a solo in front of a lot of people,” senior contestant Kaitlyn Neid said. “I have always loved singing and performing but did not always get opportunities to perform solos, so when my friend Bethany Folks asked if I would perform a duet with her I figured it would be easier if I could perform with someone else on stage. Bethany and my talent was singing the duet ‘Wondering’ from ‘High School Musical the Musical the Series.’ We prepared by practicing together in the weeks before the audition and the performance.” 

Although the night was focused on the creativity and musical talent of the students, staff were able to take on the role of judges putting them in a unique possession to engage with the onstage talent.

“I think it went really well,” Spanish teacher and judge Amanda Gehrke said. “I really enjoyed seeing my current and former students put their talents on display. I was blown away by how much courage and creativity they showcased. I think it is a great way to get students, teachers and parents into the building outside of school hours, plus we were able to fundraise for an important cause and allow students to shine doing what they excel at.”

Another way for student personality to shine through lies within the host roles occupied by volunteer students who are responsible for keeping the audience engaged and introducing each contestant.

“Ava Konwinski and I are so thankful we were chosen to host for Best of West,” senior and co-host Lauren Aguirre said. “It was such a fun opportunity to get to see some of our friends and peers perform. We got the audience really engaged and laughing all night which made it super fun to host.” 

The talent show offered many benefits for its participants: for some, they were able to overcome fears of being on stage, and for others, it was an opportunity for them to connect with friends.

“What I enjoyed the most was getting to see and hear my friends cheer me on as I got to step outside of my comfort zone and sing on stage,” Neid said. “It’s just something I never thought I’d be brave enough to do. Normally when I perform it was with a choir and a lot of people, so it was surreal to be up there singing alone. It was so fun to have the support of my closest friends.”

Even with the show’s exuberant atmosphere and fun performances, the larger importance of the event was felt by contestants, audience members and judges alike. 

“Upon reflection, I think the coolest part of the night was realizing how it gave students from all walks of life a place to be celebrated for being authentically themselves,” Gehrke said. “I’m realizing that our first place winner was a student who is openly LGBTQ and BIPOC and our second-place winner is a student who is visually impaired and whose family immigrated to the U.S. I know that isn’t why they won, they won based on their talent alone, but I think it is amazing that in one event we could highlight and uplift all members of our community just for being unapologetically who they are.”

With the money raised going to help those with disabilities gain confidence through music and students getting the chance to showcase their talents, Best of West continues to be an outlet that draws the Millard West community together while also leaving an impact on the surrounding community.