23 Aug 2014
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Geneva's Got Talent Competition—Spots Are Filling Up Quickly

If you are one of the first 75 to send in your applicaton, you will be meeting some of these judges.

Geneva's Got Talent Competition—Spots Are Filling Up Quickly Geneva's Got Talent Competition—Spots Are Filling Up Quickly Geneva's Got Talent Competition—Spots Are Filling Up Quickly

Spots are filling up quickly for a chance to win $1,000 in Geneva Chamber’s  competition. Only the first 75 applicants will be invited to audition on May 20. Semifinalists and finalists will perform on Central Stage during the Swedish Days Festival presented by Cadence Health.

The judges for the auditions, semifinals and finals have extensive and impressive experience in all areas of entertainment. Four new judges will be available for each round of the competition.


Mary Hooper has a master's degree in Music from NIU. She has been teaching piano at Cordogan’s Piano for the last 21 years and until 2007 had been the Music Director at the First Baptist Church in Batavia for 17 years. Her musical taste is self-described as eclectic and she plays a variety of instruments including piano, organ, standup bass, guitar, accordion and hammered dulcimer. She enjoys playing for weddings, special events, and private parties, but most of all teaching and introducing her students to the wonderful world of music.

Beckie Untiedt owns and with her husband. She does make her living creating chocolate but has been singing since a young girl, winning many competitions through the years. When her children were small, and the business was just starting she sang on the weekends in venues all over the Chicago area. Beckie and her husband have led the Praise Service at St. Mark's Lutheran Church for more than 10 years, and now participate in services at Christ Community.

Heather Klaus is a choreographer/dance instructor currently residing in beautiful Geneva. She teaches all types of Dance at Moves Dance Studio in North Aurora as well as directs iDance, a competitive dance company. When not at Moves, Heather choreographs musicals all around the Midwest for Professional, University, Community and High School stages—such as West Side Story, Hair, Pippin, Cats (twice), The Wiz, Grease, Oklahoma, Xanadu and You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown. In 2010 she choreographed Pageant, the Musical in Atlanta with writer/director and Tony-nominee Bill Russell. Last year she had the wonderful opportunity to choreograph the .

Steve Lord has been a professional journalist for 40 years, the last 34 with The Beacon-News in Aurora, now part of Sun-Times Media. He also is a professional playwright, and a 19-year member of Gag Reflex Comedy Theater, a west suburban-based comedy group that has performed throughout the Midwest. He is a board member of the Geneva Underground Playhouse, and has appeared in four productions there, as well as directing one.


Leah Leman began her study of piano at the age of five. Growing up, she participated in many recitals and competitions, started her private teaching career at 15 and in college performed and accompanied vocalists, instrumentalist, and choirs. Leah earned her degree in Piano Performance and Keyboard Pedagogy at Cedarville University in Ohio. More recent, she played piano in orchestra pits and taught music in a private international school in Chengdu, China, for four years. She lives in Batavia, where she teaches privately from her home. 

Hayley Skreens is the scheduling manager at Fox Valley's largest music school, Sounds Like Music in Geneva and in her third year of college majoring in Social Work with a minor in music. This summer she will also be instructing the "Little Lyrics" music class offered at Sounds Like Music.  Hayley has been involved with music and the arts her entire life, including dance, improv, theatre, painting and drawing with the main focus on music.  She sings, and plays many instruments such as the mandolin, banjo, guitar and piano. Being a performer, she is very excited to participate in the judging of the "Geneva's Got Talent" competition!

Dan Yotz has enjoyed both roles in his musical career which can be traced back to his youth in Geneva.  His musical and electrical interests converged as he continued his studies at the University of Miami. Extensive study of the recording process has led him to recently open a recording studio here in Geneva.

Mary Jane Bankmann will also be assisting in the judging of the semifinalists on June 20.


Derek Swanson a class of 1986 Geneva Viking and graduate of WIU, where he was fullback for the fighting Leathernecks. Derek owns D. Swanson Sales and Installations in Geneva and has participated in several productions throughout high school and college as well as some local community theater. He’s been an active part of the Christ Community Church drama team for the past 10 years and enjoys coaching both track and football. Derek is one half of the and will be a part of the new Viking Sports Network as a commentator for the Alumni Show. He is a recent inductee to the . He lives in Geneva with his wife Jodi and two children.

Kim Dezonno comes to the judges table with over twelve years of dance experience.  She was trained in formal ballet under the direction of Madame Galina from age 2. Kim continued her love of dance throughout school and was the Vice President of Orchesis at St. Viator’s High School while continuing her education and competing in local competitions. After high school Kim danced for several local entertainment companies providing Interactive Entertainment and follow along dances throughout the Chicagoland area. She has found another way to feed her passion for music and dance through teaching Zumba, She also coordinates and assists with the girls dance team, as well as on staff helping with the operations.

Chuck Soumar has 40 years of experience as a professional musician and business manager. He was one of the original members of The Ides of March formed in 1969. Chuck has recorded numerous albums, radio and television commercials and toured across the United States and Canada.  As a music education major, he taught at the high school level and was the vocal andorchestra director, as well as conductor for musical theater productions.  Besides performing and teaching, Chuck has been involved with lighting and production design, booking, community relations and advertising in the industry.

Trish Brock will also be assisting in the judging of the finalists on June 23.

Application and rules can be found at www.genevachamber.com.

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