Jake Kolesar, a fifteen-year-old ninth-grade student at Walnut Hills High School, was selected as the winner of a $500 award at the Cincinnati Arts Association's inaugural Overture Awards Next Pop Star competition at the Aronoff Center on Saturday, June 2. A talented guitarist and singer-songwriter, Jake played and sang one of his original songs – Floating – during the competition.
Next Pop Star is designed for talented high school students who perform popular music. The competition was developed in response to the need for a non-classical program to complement The Overture Awards' more traditional art disciplines, and to encourage students who enjoy singing, but do not study privately and are not involved in classical music or musical theater.
"We were very pleased with the results of our first Next Pop Star competition," said Steve Finn, CAA Director of Education and Community Relations. "We reached a group of students who were totally different than the students who compete at The Overture Awards, and we are optimistic that this new program will grow significantly over the next couple of years. Jake is a talented singer-songwriter, and this competition was a perfect match for his skills."
Earlier this year, Jake was selected as the winner of the Billy Elliot Dream Award Essay Contest – a collaboration between Fifth Third Bank Broadway in Cincinnati, the Cincinnati Arts Association's Overture Awards, and Local 12 WKRC. Jake took a unique approach to the essay contest by writing and singing one of his original songs (instead of writing an essay) that impressed the panel of judges.
Jake, who lives with his family in Mt. Lookout, recently completed his freshman year at Walnut Hills High School, where he is active in the choral and musical-theatre programs. He spends most of his free time
writing and performing his music, which he hopes to pursue professionally. This year, Jake started
performing at local coffee shops and farmers markets, and with The Queen City Balladeers. Next month, he will be performing on the acoustic stage at the Bunbury Music Festival. Jake is a huge fan of Bob Dylan and Shakespeare, and when not writing songs or doing something musical, he likes to play basketball with his friends. To sample Jake's music (including his original song Floating, which he sang in the Next Pop Star competition), visit his You Tube channel at www.youtube.com/jakekolesar.
"I would like to thank the Cincinnati Arts Association for the wonderful opportunities that they have given me this year," said Jake. "Between the Billy Elliot Dream Award and the Next Pop Star competition, my musical dream has moved one step closer to reality. I also greatly appreciate that CAA has chosen to accommodate not only students who have worked very hard studying opera or ballet, but people like me who may work just as hard in their room instead of in the studio."
Upon receipt of his monetary award, Jake chose to donate $100 back to CAA "in the hope that CAA will continue to give opportunities to students of the arts."
The three Next Pop Star finalists were Mariah Southers, a freshman at Conner High School who sang a country/western song; Jacob Turner, a senior at Walnut Hills High School who performed an original rap composition; and Emily Wyant, a junior at Ohio Virtual Academy who also performed a country/western song. The three finalists each received a $100 award.
The Overture Awards Scholarship Competition – the largest locally run arts scholarship competition in the country – provides a $2,500 scholarship to six area high school students with 18 finalists each winning a $500 scholarship. Students compete in one of six artistic disciplines: Creative Writing, Dance, Instrumental Music, Theater, Visual Art, and Vocal Music. The Overture Awards was developed to recognize, encourage and reward excellence in the arts among Tri-state students in grades 9-12. During 2012, more than 520 students competed for $24,000 in scholarships.