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Rishi raises funds for the Senior Center

Saratoga's got talent and proves it at show

An article by Khalida Sarwari, July 1st, 2013

Dancers, musicians and entertainers took to the McAfee Center stage on June 14 to showcase their skills for a good cause.

A talented group of 88 performers participated in the second annual Saratoga's Got Talent event.

Judges awarded first, second and third prizes for the most talented competitors in the 5-to-12 and the 13-and-over age groups.

In the first group, the first-place winner was Nevin Richards; second place went to Rebecca Lofis and third to Mohini Dutta.

In the second group, the first-place winner was Tracy Sarmiento, who took home the grand prize of $2,500; second-place winner was Samantha Rose, and third place went to Esha Krishnamoorthy.

The winners of both age groups won for singing operatically. Nevin, 12, sang "Queen of the Night" by Mozart, and Sarmineto, 22, performed a number from Andrew Lloyd Webber's Phantom of the Opera.

Contestants also had a chance to win in two other categories: a judge's singing award and, for the first time this year, an audience choice award, with the winner selected via online voting. Those winners were Nina Sabharwal, Raquel Boales, Ankita Sarvesh and the Dancing Divas from Argonaut.

The panel of judges included Saratoga Union School District superintendent Lane Weiss; Saratoga High School principal Paul Robinson; Vickie Wyant, a retired Redwood Middle School music director; Keith Banks, a dance director at Studio 10 Dance; Alka Bhatnagar founder of Sur Bahar; Redwood Middle School music director Jon Jow; and San Jose City Councilman Ash Kalra. Redwood Middle School students Shivaum Kumar and Ayush Aggarwal served as emcees.

Rishi Kumar, founder of the Saratoga Cares Foundation, said the event was attended by more than 500 people and ultimately raised about $19,000. The money will be divided between the Saratoga Education Foundation and Saratoga Senior Center.

The foundation supports science, physical education, computer instruction, library, music and art programs at Argonaut, Foothill and Saratoga elementary schools, as well as Redwood Middle School.

Last year, the event drew nearly 300 people and raised about $18,000 for the Saratoga Senior Center. The winners of last year's contest donated their prize money of $1,000 to the senior center and returned to compete again this year.

Saratoga's Got Talent was organized by a local nonprofit agency, Saratoga Cares Foundation. The foundation was created in 2010 to honor the compassionate and caring spirit of the late Susie Nagpal. The organization began by holding singing competitions on a small scale at Blue Rock Shoot on Big Basin Way, and out of that grew the talent show.

This year, the organization also recognized Saratogans who have recently excelled in various fields. The list included Anushree Dugar, who placed third in the country in the National History Day Competition held in Washington, D.C.; Eesha Khare, an 18-year-old Lynbrook High School graduate who invented a device that charges a cell phone battery in under 30 seconds; Nicole Bowman, a Saratoga High student who placed third at the Southwest District Rowing Championships and qualified for the U.S. Rowing Youth National Championships; and Sean Shi, a USA Junior Math Olympiad champion.

Coverage in the press

"Got Talent? Saratoga wants you to perform"

The Mercury News, May 13th, 2013

Some of the most talented Saratogans will gather at McAfee Center next month to show off their singing, acting, dancing and stand-up skills at an event that's sure to remind some of the popular America's Got Talent show. There might even be an aspiring magician or two in the mix.

Saratoga's Got Talent, now in its second year, will once again be put on by local nonprofit Saratoga Cares Foundation. Last year, the event drew about 300 people and raised about $18,000 for the Saratoga Senior Center. This year, the Saratoga Cares Foundation has much loftier goals, said its founder Rishi Kumar. He expects double the attendance and generate at least $50,000 in proceeds.

"It is going to be bigger and better than 2012," Kumar said. "The quality of contestants signed up is just incredible. We have a Bay Area celebrity stand-up comedian coming in to anchor this show. We even have a world famous musician/singer lined up to be one of the judges. This show is going to be beyond spectacular."

The recipient of the proceeds this year will be the Saratoga Education Foundation, which supports science, physical education, computer instruction, library, music and art programs at Argonaut, Foothill and Saratoga elementary schools, as well as Redwood Middle School. Depending upon the success of the event, some funds may be allocated to the senior center and other Saratoga-based entities, Kumar said.

Judges will award first, second and third prizes for the most talented competitors in the 5-12 and the 13-and-over age groups. Contestants will also have a chance at winning two other categories: a judge's singing award and new this year, an audience choice award, which will be selected via online voting. First prize is $2,500.The contest is open to everyone, whether they live in Saratoga or not, said Kumar, and the top 20 finalists in South Bay Teen Idol have been invited to compete.

The show is "your opportunity to become really visible to the judges, and it might open up to other opportunities," he added.

As of early May, about 25 people had signed up to compete in the show. Kumar said the line-up would be capped at 50. Aside from the talent showcase, the event will also feature entertainment segments and food trucks.

Performers include Grace Peng's West Valley College Syncronicity; Tarini Ullal, niece of the late city council member Susie Nagpal; Raffy Espiritu, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur who has composed and released many albums; Karnamrita Dasi, a musician and Kirtanist; Richard Adoradio, a local talent who runs Blue Rock Shoots weekly open mic; and Kumar and his wife Seema, who will perform a high-energy Bollywood song and dance routine.

The show will be broadcast in three segments on KSAR-TV and CreaTV within a week of the event and will include behind-the-scenes features, such as interviews with the contestants. The program will culminate with the announcement of the winners, which will be kept a secret until the show airs. The event will also be webcast live on the Saratoga's Got Talent website.

The Saratoga Cares Foundation was created in 2010 to honor Nagpal's compassionate, caring spirit. The organization began by holding singing competitions on a small scale at Blue Rock Shoot on Big Basin Way, and out of that grew the talent show. The winners of last year's contest donated their prize money of $1,000 to the senior center and will be back to compete again this year, according to Kumar.

The panel of judges includes Saratoga Union School District superintendent Lane Weiss; Vickie Wyant, a retired Redwood Middle School music director; Jon Jow, music director at Redwood Middle School; Keith Banks, a dance director at Studio 10 Dance; San Jose City Councilman Ash Kalra; and state Sen. Jim Beall.

"Saratoga's Got Talent is a wonderful showcase for the city's gifted singers, dancers and musicians," Beall said. "And to top it off, the show directly benefits local schools, charitable organizations and causes. It's a singular event that captures the spirit of Saratoga."

The show will be held June 14, 5 to 10 p.m., at the McAfee Center, 20300 Herriman Ave., Saratoga. Tickets are $21 through May 31; the price will increase after June 1. To sign up as a contestant or to purchase tickets for the show, visit saratogatalent.com. For information about the Saratoga Cares Foundation, visit saratogacares.org

"The Crew wins top honors in the Saratoga's Got Talent show"

The Mercury News, July 16th, 2012

GOT TALENT: The top winner of the Saratoga's Got Talent Show that benefited the Senior Center was The Crew, singing, "Standing on the Corner Watching All the Girls Go By." They promptly turned their prize winnings, $1,000, over to the senior center.

Crew members are Don Barnett, Bob Cancellieri, Roger Fisher, Rudy Kalafus, Fred Rust, Don Schilling and Bob Stoner, accompanied by Eric Serdahl, percussionist, and Glenda Rasmussen, piano. They regularly sing with the Fun Time Singers, as well as on their own.

"We were overwhelmed by the cheers and standing ovation for a bunch of old geezers," as they describe themselves. "Never in our wildest dreams did we imagine we would be awarded first prize!" Not needing (dubious) career advancement, The Crew sent the award straight to the senior center.

The talent show raised $18,138 for the center, and donations are still coming in, says organizer Rishi Kumar. Other winners were Shouvik Neogi, 16, who won second place and $500 for her break dancing number. Shouvik is from Chennai, India, and will begin her studies at UC-Berkeley this fall.

Harshitha Krishnan, 18, singing "If I Ain't Got You," won third place and $250. Isabelle Simone captured best costume award and a $30 voucher from Agnes Womens Boutique. Ankitha Sarvesh garnered the most applause trophy and a $25 voucher from Florentine Restaurant.

Mithil Chakraborthy, 8, of Saratoga won first place in the 5-12 age roup dancing to a remix of Flo Rida's "Good Feeling" and Bollywood track, "Chammak Challo." The prize was 12 weeks of private lessons from Musicians Mobile.

Second Sun won second place by singing, playing and dancing to "Pricetag." Sun members are Katarina Kelly, 10, and twins Jade and Devon Schreiner, 11. Their prize was three months of group lessons from Guitar Showcase. Mohini Dutta, 11, captured third place with an Indian classical dance called "Kathak" and won a month of lessons from Guitar Showcase.

Evelyn Ha, 11, and Allison Ha, 9, won the "most applause" trophy, and Kiara Parker, 6, won best costume trophy.

All winners received trophies. Younger winners also received passes to the Tech Museum. The show was a wonderful example of the community uniting for a cause, said Kumar.

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"Saratoga's got talent, and it will be on display at the Senior Center"

The Mercury News, June 18th, 2012

TALENT SHOW FUNDRAISER: Saratoga's Got Talent, a performance competition that's a fundraiser for the Saratoga Senior Center, will be held June 22, 7-10 p.m., at the center. Previous Saratoga's Got Talent performers will entertain from 7 to 7:30 p.m. and again from 10 to 10:20 p.m., serving as bookends to the June contestants.

The event is sold out, but the public can stop by the senior center to have dinner via the food trucks in the back parking lot starting at 6 p.m. Choices include Louisiana Territory (Cajun food); No Way Jose (gourmet Mexican); Tikka Bytes (Indian); and ScoopsSJ (ice cream).

Wine will be on sale by the glass. Tables will be set up in the patio area. The performance itself will be in the community room. Performers can win prizes up to $1,000. Judges include Lane Weiss, school superintendent; music teachers from Saratoga schools; and nearly all the city council members.

Performers on deck are Cortnee Langlie, Raffy Espiritu, Grace Peng, Tarini Ullal and Seema Kumar, along with some 45 others. It promises to be something like controlled chaos, a lot of movement, promises Susan Huff, senior center director.

"Entertaining Saratoga's seniors @ SASCC's ultimate variety show"

The Mercury News, May 7th, 2012

The Saratoga Cares Foundation and Saratoga's Got Talent organizations brought a talent show to the Saratoga Senior Center's lunch program recently with a decided Indian slant. Providing food was the Mynt, a nearby Indian restaurant.

Mayor Chuck Page and Shekhar Joshi both performed standup comedy; Grace Peng, Nina Jayshankar, Cortnee Langlie and Vijay Parmar each sang popular songs; Julianna Pollifrone and Katie Burns sang original songs; Raffy Espiritu sang high tech parodies; and Sankhya Ghirnikar sang a Bollywood classical song.

Dancers included the Argonaut Elementary Girls with boogie woogie and Spanish Bollywood renditions; the Jollywood group Dandia; and Rishi and Seema Kumar, who performed a Bollywood dance. The place was sold out and the crowd so enthusiastic it sounds like a repeat is surely in the offing.

"Got talent? Show it off at the Blue Rock Shoot"

The Mercury News, Feb 27th, 2012

Saratogans hoping to show off their talents without having to take a trip to Hollywood now have a forum to do so in the city. Those looking to massage their vocal chords with a little singing, show off their wit with some comedy or bust out some James Brown dance moves can do so during the monthly "Saratoga's Got Talent" performance event at the Blue Rock Shoot in the Village.

The idea came from resident Rishi Kumar.

"It originally was supposed to be an extension of the weekly Village Marketplace. People were sticking around until about 6 p.m., but then they just headed home. So I was trying to think of something we could do to keep them in the Village and have them eat at one of the restaurants or shop," Kumar said.

The event was initially titled "Saratoga Village Karaoke" and envisioned as a weekly happening. The first event took place at the Bell Tower Bistro in July.

But with the new school year starting, the event was moved to every first Saturday of the month to accommodate families' schedules. It was also moved to the Blue Rock Shoot where there was a cozier environment for children and adults to hang out, Kumar said.

It's become more than just a clever way to bring foot traffic to downtown Saratoga.

"It's become a celebration of cultures," Kumar said. "What we want is an intermingling of people in Saratoga. We want a good representation of Saratoga's demographics."

Kumar, who is Indian, said those attending the event at first were friends of his with similar ethnic backgrounds. But recently the event has been "trending toward a good mix," he said.The talent show has become an event for families, Kumar said. It was so popular with children that adults didn't want to interrupt them. So the event's organizers decided to give children the first portion of the show and leave the second half for adults.

The performance show has attracted those who can sing, dance, and like Mayor Chuck Page, tell a few jokes.

Page performed a stand-up comedy routine at the Feb. 4 event. He was able to poke some fun at the parking issue in downtown Saratoga at night.

"The parking out here is hard sometimes, right? I've never seen a place where every restaurant has plenty of tables open, but there's no parking. I don't know what these people are doing. It's like they're coming here and dropping off their cars and carpooling to Los Gatos," Page joked.

Page said he likes the idea of the event.

"It's good to see people come out and show off their talents," he said. "I think it has potential to bring more people into the city to partake in what we have to offer."

Kumar said people from Los Gatos, Monte Sereno, Cupertino, Palo Alto, San Jose, Belmont and even East Bay cities like Pleasanton and Danville have attended the event.

"It's a win-win for everyone," Kumar said. "There's new foot traffic from people from all over who are getting introduced to our Village and they're having fun."