Joe Sodano whistles to second place in Morristown talent show on March 5, 2010.


from MORRISTOWN THIS WEEK - March 17, 2010

   It was a night of whistling, singing, tapping, rapping and fiddling at the Community Theatre recently for the Morris Educational Foundation's third annual Morristown's Got Talent contest.

     Eleven-year-old "Fiddlin' Cowboy" Chris Pyo took home first place and the $1,000 prize.  "I feel awesome. I can't believe that I won and I'm deeply honored to win this prize," said Chris, a fifth-grader at Normandy Park School in Morristown.  Chris, who has been playing violin for six years, played a fiddling piece for the show "Millionaire's Hoedown," by Herman Clebenoff and was accompanied on the piano by his mother, Helen Cha-Pyo.   "I thought that everyone else had a better talent than me, so I was really shocked when (they) called my name," said Chris. He plans on donating some of his prize money back to the Morris Educational Foundation, as well as to Haiti and Chile earthquake relief.

  More than a thousand spectators gathered at Morristown's Community Theatre for the contest, a fundraiser supporting the Morris Educational Foundation. For the first time in three years, the show sold out the 1,300-seat theater, said Vincent Morreale, co-chair of the event.   Morreale expects the show raised about $28,000 for programs in the Morris School District, or several thousand dollars more than last year.

   More than 75 people and groups of people who live, work or go to school in Morristown, Morris Plains or Morris Township auditioned to be among the 16 finalists for Morristown's Got Talent this year. Serving as the show's master of ceremonies was Ben Bailey, host of the Discovery Channel's game show "Cash Cab."   Bailey, 39, of Morristown, was glad to be part of the show.  "I live here in town, and it's a good cause to raise money for education," he said.

   Following in second place, and winning $500, was Joe "The Bird" Sodano.  Sodano, 54, of Morris Township, whistled a classical version of the "Can Can" song. Whistling his entire life, Sodano, who works in the live organic poultry business, has appeared on television with his talent and has participated in international whistling competitions.

   Following in third place, winning $250, was 17-year-old Ambika Sharma, a junior at Morristown High School, who performed a Bharatanatyam and Bollywood fusion Indian dance. Devon Colquhoun, 10, of Morris Plains, and a fourth-grader at Assumption School, tried out for the contest for the first time and competed singing Taylor Swift's "Love Story." "I wanted to try out because I thought this would be a great start for my career, because I want to be a singer when I grow up," Devon said. When she learned she was selected, she was very excited. And then, it was on to the real challenge at hand: "I was very excited. I didn't know what I was going to wear," she said.

   Morristown native Ina Jorge, 46, auditioned for and competed in Morristown's Got Talent for the first time this year. Her twin sons Jaylon and Jevon Jorge, 12 were part of a band that won second place last year. This year it was mom's turn to show her stuff, and the mother of four sang Whitney Houston's "I Look to You." Having her children and family present at the competition was reward enough for Jorge."They were so extremely proud, and that was my prize. Just the pride of my children, of (seeing their) mama performing and that she did so well. That was first prize for me," she said.

    Morreale, who co-chaired the event with Fran Rossoff, also of the Morris Educational Foundation, said the foundation reached the goal it set three years ago when it started the show: to sell out the theatre. "I think we hit the big time. I think we set a precedent for the town for many years to come," Morreale said. "The town really rallied around us this year. Just supporting the event in a down economy I'm just really proud of the town coming out to support us for a really good cause."

written by Vanessa Vera Roman: 973-428-6574;