At-home viewers will select the winner of FutureStars 2021 during March 13 event; tickets now on sale

Students say this year’s show will be very different—but they wouldn’t have missed it for anything

By Jo Mathis/AAPS District News Editor

The FutureStars talent competition has been a sold-out Pioneer Theatre Guild tradition for 19 years.

And nothing—including a world-wide pandemic—could stop the music.

Featuring the pre-recorded performances of 20 students onstage in Schreiber Auditorium at Pioneer High School, FutureStars 2021 will be held virtually at 7 p.m. on Saturday, March 13. A panel of judges will determine the Top 5 performances and—from the comfort of their living room couches—the audience will get to vote for the winner of FutureStars 2021.

Tickets are available at

FutureStars 2021 competitors include:

We talked to the show’s director/producer and six students about what they’ve enjoyed most about the production, and what scares them at least a little about the upcoming event:

Jayme Kelmigian, Producer/Director

Bottom line: How is FutureStars 2021 going to work?
FutureStars 2021 is going to be live-streamed on Saturday, March 13 at 7 p.m. on the platform. The main portion of the show will be pre-recorded content up until
the hosts say, “And the top five performances are …”

The students will not know the top five performances until the night of the live-stream when the audience finds out as well. After the top five are announced, the audience will get to vote online for their favorite act of the five. The cast of the show will then join the audience live to announce the winner. It should be an exciting

Was there ever a time you were tempted to just let this year slide?
No. There was never a time I felt we should let this year slide. There are many things we cannot
do safely during this pandemic. Our students have had numerous cancelled events and
disappointments. If there was a way to safely produce FutureStars, we wanted to figure it out
and make it happen.

Beyond the obvious differences, compare directing/producing this show to previous years.
This year, communication was more important than ever. There are so many moving parts to FutureStars: the competing students, the RisingStars group, the hosts, the band, the editing team, the judges, the coaches, etc. When we are in person, it’s very easy to check in with everyone when you are seeing them 3-4 days a week. In the virtual format, it is essential that I am constantly reaching out to check in with these various groups to ensure they have what they need, they know what needs to be done, and I know what needs to get done. This year’s show required many hours of Zoom meetings, phone calls, emails, and many sticky notes filled
with to-do’s—but I’m confident that it was all worth it.

What worries you most about the upcoming virtual show?
I am most nervous about the voting and the actual live portion of the event when the hosts announce the winner of FutureStars 2021. I am a seasoned live theater director and producer – but not in the virtual realm. We ran a streaming test and we seemed to work out all of the kinks. Now, I can only trust that the technology will work out and that our planning and preparation will pay off.

How many kids are competing, and what is the range of talents?
We have 20 competing students this year, each performing one solo. In years past, students
performed in multiple numbers and only a handful of students had solos. We made the decision
to cast only juniors and seniors in the competing portion of the show and we elected to do
solos only in the virtual format. Several students will accompany themselves on guitar or piano.

Ninth and Tenth graders were eligible for our non-competing vocal group, the RisingStars. This
group rehearsed two medleys virtually – with multiple vocal parts – under the leadership of
John Bogdan. Our sound engineer, Patrick Schrock, and our videographer Amnon Steiner, will
work to edit the thirteen individual recorded parts into a large ensemble number. Editing these
numbers is a very complicated and time-consuming process. We are very lucky to work with
these professionals.

Are there kids who aren’t competing because their act can’t be done on Zoom?
We were given permission to film the singers on stage in Schreiber Auditorium at Pioneer High
School with strict safety protocols. We gave students the choice as to whether they wanted to
record onstage or if they were more comfortable recording at home. They all chose to record
onstage – except for one of our competing students because she is currently in Arizona, so she
recorded her number at home.
Our talented band of professionals, led by music director Billy Harrington, pre-recorded the
accompaniment tracks for the singers. Our sound engineer mixed these tracks so that our
singers could record onstage alone with the sound of the band in the monitors – even if they
weren’t physically in the space.

Are there any advantages to live streaming a talent show?
One advantage of producing the show virtually is that the students were able to do three takes
of their songs for the recording. When we are live, you get one shot.

How have the kids who may have been looking forward to getting out on stage again—or for
the first time—reacted to competing virtually?

The students and families have been gracious and supportive that PTG is attempting to offer
opportunities – even if they look and feel very different than years past. I’m sure there are
many disappointments with not being able to participate in the traditional form of the
competition but I do hope there are positive memories created from this event.

Pioneer senior Martha Laramore-Josey will sing “Fidelity.”

Have you participated in FutureStars previously?

This is my first year participating in FutureStars. I was a part of the straight play last year, but I have really enjoyed being a part of FutureStars this year!

What were your initial thoughts about participating in this virtual FutureStars 2021? Have they changed?

I was a little nervous at first, just because I wasn’t sure how it was going to work in a virtual format. Once we started having our coachings, I started to get excited because I really enjoyed working on my song and then, when we found out that we would get to perform our pieces onstage I was over the moon because it made everything feel like a real show!

Martha played the lead in the PTG’s production of “Matilda” in the fall of 2019.

The main positive for me was getting to really work on bringing my own energy to the stage.

Which artists have most inspired you?Regina Spektor, of course, really inspired my performance especially because her music is unique, yet sweet and fun to sing. I had a really fun time getting inspiration from her music video “Fidelity” as well as her other music. Corinne Bailey Rae also inspires me as an artist because her music just feels very warm and light, which was something I wanted to bring to my performance. 

What will you always remember about your senior year of high school?

I’ll always remember the way that we were able to still come together and create art, even though we were all at home. Not having a traditional senior year has been tough. A lot of our special activities and traditions were canceled. But having PTG as a creative space has helped a lot. It’s definitely shown me that distance isn’t a barrier to creating art and performing.

What are your plans for next year?

I will be attending Barnard College of Columbia University in the fall. I’m still undecided in terms of what I want to major in, but I hope to participate in a lot of student-run theatre productions. 


Skyline senior Nate Frison will sing “Anthony’s Song.”

How many years now have you participated in FutureStars, and what are your best memories of
that time?

This is my second year in Future Stars. Last year was so fun, being able to sing “A Whole New
World” with Zoe Resendez. I remember before we sang together, we did warmups together
and we just tried to calm each other down because we were both so nervous. It was also an
awesome feeling when we moved onto finals together. I remember hearing it and immediately
hugging her.

There are obviously lots of drawbacks to a virtual vs. live performance. Are there any positives?
A positive of virtual performance is that you can take multiple takes and edit it so that you have
the best product possible.

Which artists have most inspired you?
For this year’s performance, definitely Billy Joel. He encompasses both musical theatre and
rock, which is a very interesting genre. It’s kind of an in-between of what I normally do and the
song I did last year (“It’s My Life” by Bon Jovi). I think the way that Billy Joel sings is very interesting
and I tried to take small bits of what he does and put them into my performance.

Nate Frison performs during FutureStars 2021.

What will you always remember about your senior year of high school?
I will remember the unique challenges of both online school and online college auditions for
musical theatre departments. Auditioning for schools is hard as it is, but also navigating all of
the technical sides was another challenge. I will definitely remember it.

Future plans:
Study musical theatre in college and move to a big city.

Pioneer High School seniorAllison Gaines will sing “Don’t Start Now.”

Have you previously performed with FutureStars?

Although I have been with PTG for my entire high school career, this is my first year participating in
FutureStars and I am so excited!

There are obviously lots of drawbacks to a virtual vs. live performance. Are there any positives?
A definite positive of this virtual performance is that people can watch us from anywhere. My family
who live out of state and across the country can watch me sing, which would not have happened

Allison performing as Miss Honey in PTG’s production of “Matilda.”

Which artists have most inspired you?
I enjoy many different types of artists and music, so it’s hard to narrow it down. I would say that I am really inspired by Barbara Streisand because I love her sound and she has had a big influence on my singing journey, and Olivia Rodrigo because she is young, super talented, and has so much control
over her voice. I have also been really inspired by SZA lately.

What will you always remember about your senior year of high school?

With all the restrictions from the pandemic, I have had a lot more free time compared to a normal
year. I’ve used that time to really expand and strengthen my interest in music. Beyond singing with
Pioneer Choirs and my extra-curricular ensemble, I participated in MPulse through U-M last
summer, and the MSVMA state-wide virtual honors choir in the fall. I have started playing my violin
again and even give virtual lessons! I also play my ukulele almost every day. I have tried to take
advantage of every musical opportunity available in this remote setting, both at Pioneer and beyond. I
appreciate my teachers trying so hard to create these virtual opportunities to bring students together.

Future plans:
I am still in the middle of the college admissions process right now, which is a little stressful! I have
many academic interests and areas I want to explore. I am planning to study Vocal Performance at the
university level, and I would love to stay active in theatre in college or in the community.

Pioneer High School senior Kiyan Aslani will sing “Hero.”

How many years now have you participated in FutureStars, and what are your best memories of
that time?

This is going to be my second year participating in FutureStars. I remember last year creating choreography for my 2000s performance was a blast.

What were your initial thoughts about participating in this virtual FutureStars 2021? Have they

Initially, I was extremely nervous as I thought I was going to have to record from home and that
my performance wouldn’t turn out as good as anyone else’s, but PTG briefly provided the
auditorium space to record which helped lift those worries immensely.

Kıyan Aslanı during FutureStars 2020

There are obviously lots of drawbacks to a virtual vs. live performance. Are there any positives?
Definitely being able to do more than one take for the virtual performance is a positive.
Knowing you have more than one chance really helps calm you down during your performance
as opposed to the pressure of the usual one chance we get in front of a live audience.

What will you always remember about your senior year of high school?
Having to do things online will definitely always stick with me. I feel that the change in dynamic
from in-person to online school will make events like FutureStars 2021 just stick out to me that
much more when I think back on this year.

Pioneer senior Shailen Chugh will co-host.

How many years now have you participated in FutureStars, and what are your best memories of that time?
This is actually my first year doing Future Stars. I have really enjoyed watching the shows in the past, so I decided to audition to be a host for Future Stars 2021. 

What were your initial thoughts about participating in this virtual FutureStars 2021? Have they changed?
I was at first very concerned that it wouldn’t allow for the same opportunities to bond with other members of the cast and crew. I know from some of my friends who have been in PTG shows in the past that the best part of being in a show is spending time with people. While it has been more difficult to meet people and make new friends to an extent, I’m surprised by the amount of camaraderie and teamwork that exists within the cast. As a host, it is necessary to work and brainstorm with other hosts in order to help create an entertaining show, and that cooperation is even more important online. Despite the difficult circumstances, I think we really bonded as a group and were able to collaborate in a productive way.

Are you nervous about anything regarding the live stream?
I’m not too worried about the live stream, since I know everyone has worked super hard to think of every possible barrier. However, I am a little anxious that my WiFi might stop working in the middle of the show, but since most of the show is prerecorded, it probably wouldn’t be a huge issue. 

This is Shailen’s first year with FutureStars.

What will you always remember about your senior year of high school?
Even though we didn’t get the senior year we thought we would, I think I made the best of it. Specifically, I think I got so much closer with a few friends. I’ll always remember staying up until the early hours of the morning playing crossword games with my friends after a long night of physics homework. I seem to do everything with my friends now; I work with them, and I relax with them. It has truly been an enjoyable and memorable year. 

What are your plans for next year?
Next year, I’ll be attending Northwestern University as a chemistry major. I’m not exactly sure where I want to go career-wise, but I know that I want it to include science. In addition, I hope to continue being a part of the arts at NU, so I plan on auditioning for a cappella groups and possibly studying at their music school. 

Pioneer senior Brad O’Brien will co-host. 

 How many years now have you participated in FutureStars, and what are your best memories of that time? 

I have participated in FutureStars for four years now, going all the way back to my freshman year. The first year, I was in Rising Stars, and every year since, I have been a host. Some of my favorite memories from my time in FutureStars are rehearsing with friends and perfecting our performances to put on the best show for the audience. 

During the Disney-themed preliminary show last year, Brad introduces the next act.

Are you nervous about anything regarding the live stream? 

I am totally nervous for the livestream. It’s something completely different than what has happened at FutureStars in past years, but I am excited to still have the chance to perform for everyone this year. 

What’s the best thing about being part of FutureStars 2021? 

The best part about being performing in FutureStars 2021 is the opportunity to work with other people to create something amazing. Not often do you get the chance to interact with other people that are passionate about the same thing that you are and I feel incredibly lucky that FutureStars is even possible this year. I’m so grateful that I can be a part of the show, and I’m amazed at how far we’ve come and how much we’ve achieved in such a short amount of time. 

What will you always remember about your senior year of high school? 

I’ll always remember the bizarre circumstances that led to senior year being held entirely online, but I’ll also remember the incredible amount of fun I had putting time and effort into this production. While not what I thought senior year would be like, I’ve learned to make the most of every opportunity that I have, and that certainly includes FutureStars 2021. 

Future plans:  Attending the University of Michigan to study astronomy.

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