Standing Ovation for Richardson at American Equestrians Got Talent
Photos at American Equestrians Got Talent
Her Singing Career Started at Two Years Old
Kyaunnee Richardson was two years old when she first started singing. At that time, Gospel and Disney songs, especially Pocahontas, were what captured her attention.
Yet, 25 years later, when she entered Week IV of the “American Equestrians Got Talent” contest in Wellington, FL, the songs that earned her the victory were of Glitter and Be Gay from Candide and Summertime from Porgy and Bess. So sweet and captivating was her rendition of both these melodies, that the audience rose from their chairs to applaud her performances and her victory.
American Equestrians Got Talent, a fundraiser to benefit USEF High Performance Programs, is the creation of Robert Dover, technical advisor/chef d'equipe for the U.S. national dressage team. This is its third year.
Each week the winner receives a check for $1000 from the main sponsor and this week it was Matt Johnson of Engel & Volkers that handed over that check. The winner then gets added into the pool of those who can compete at the March 19th finale for $10,000 in prize money.
A total of nine talented competitors were in the first round of the competition. In addition to Richardson, these included Cassie Ortiz, Alyssa Marie Coon, Anna Buffini, Brit Lee Moore, Ayden Uhlir, Neeky (Monique) Parker, Jonathan Perez, and Tarek Chakib.
The top three moved on to a second round which was determined by the audience applause meter. Richardson was joined by Coon and Chakib.
Coon, who is just 12 years old, so impressed the judges that McKenney remarked, “If I were a parent, I would want you to be my kid.”
Chakib’s initial performance set the room on fire. His voice resonated with immense authority of Etta James song “At Last.” The audience was so awestruck that their cheers and applauding started right from the beginning and continued even after he finished.
While all three drew huge applause from the audience, in the end this was Richardson’s turn to join week I winner Olivia Willis, week II winner Zach Duckworth, as well as the tied winners from week III Brandon Olavarria and Michael Boone.
Initially, in week three the applause meter showed a tie and the rules signify that if this happens the judges are the ones to break the tie. While torn between the two, they ultimately decided on Olavarria to be the winner. However, Linda Zang, one of that week’s judges, and Desi Dillingham later felt that Boone was equally worthy and offered to donate an additional $1000 in prize money, so that the two could end up in a tie.
“Michael was so great and did such a great job,” said Linda Zang who judged the event during AEGT Week III. “Robert said it was in the rules. So, if it’s in the rules, let’s give it to him.”
“I was blown away by the guy,” added Dillingham. “He is really talented and the kid (Brandon Olavarria) was magic. To me it was a tie.”
Richardson loves Pocahontas and Opera
“I’ve always just loved to sing,” commented Richardson. “My mom would put a cassette player by my bedside and I would mimic what was on the tape,” she explained.
While she loves classical music and opera, there is a part of her heart that belongs to Disney’s Pocahontas. She was about six years old when she memorized it from beginning to end and even today admits, “It is still my favorite movie of all time.”
It’s about how the meaning of this movie resonates with her. “I just love the message it brings and the strength of the character of Pocahontas, which is that you have to believe in yourself, stick to what you know and follow through.”
It was a similar message that she revealed in her American Equestrians Got Talent performance.
“No matter what your talent is, always bring it with honesty and heart and have fun,” was how Richardson defined what she tries to bring through her singing.
After holding the attention of the audience with her first rendition of Glitter and Be Gay, she wanted to send an even stronger message when she sang Summertime for her final performance.
“I just wanted to give more to the audience. I wanted to say, here is another piece of me. This is another gift I want to give to you.”
Richardson got interested in opera when she was just 15 years old. Her inquisitive mind was awed by the difference between pop and musical theater. “The fact that it was a different art form is what resonated with me as a human being,” commented the Miami Gardens, FL resident.
Richardson’s love of opera came from her curiosity to always want to know more. “I wanted to know more about this other world. After reading the Phantom of the Opera novel and discovering composers such as Gounod and Meyerbeer, I went on YouTube and searched for answers. I found singers such as Renata Tabaldi, Luciano Pavarotti, Renee Fleming, Kathleen Battle and so forth."
Now the question was, how did she go from singing opera onstage to performing at American Equestrians Got Talent. And that answer was tied into her recent discovery of horse shows.
About a year ago, she fell in love with watching horses, especially dressage, and it was while enjoying the sport that a friend told her about this annual 10-week contest.
For her very first performance, not only did she mesmerize the audience with her voice but with the elegant rose gown she wore adorned with lovely jewelry.
Once the evening was over she was just happy. “This was my first time here and I loved it. It was so much fun seeing everyone having a good time. It was very refreshing. It was not like dog eat dog. The feeling was one of let’s just have a good time. Overall it was good food, good company and good wine,” she remarked.
While it is clear her voice brought her to where she is today, it also was and continues to be the support of her parents.
“My mother is the one that discovered my talent. My dad wasn’t so keen until I took him to see Phantom of the Opera and then he said I guess this is what you are going to do. He heard me singing it around the house and over time he saw that I was getting better and better and so he said, if this is what you want to do I will support you.”
Surprisingly enough for her middle school years, Richardson toyed with the idea of being a doctor even though for most of her earlier years, singing was all she desired. She even recalls being asked what she wanted to do in Elementary School when she clearly remembers writing, “I want to be the greatest singer in the world.”
After she discovered how many years it would take to become a doctor, her passion for singing re-entered the picture.
And while it may seem that her entire life is focused around singing, in fact she has lots of passions and spends time reading, blogging, writing novels, and riding her bike. Yet there was one more thing that she does and it was that other love that brought her to this contest.
“I just love the intricacies of dressage and how they prepare and train and even just the show itself as well as all the different choreographies.”
Richardson sees the similarities in dressage with singing.
“It takes discipline, time and blood, sweat and tears, but in the end when you are having fun, it is all there. You’ve done the hard work so now you can have fun.”
When asked, what was her most precious moment of the evening, for Richardson it was the response of the audience. “I was very humbled to know that the honesty I gave to the audience was given back.” Her way of thanking the audience was by simply crossing her arms and bowing. It was a silent gesture that spoke volumes.
More About American Equestrians Got Talent
Robert Dover is technical advisor/chef d’équipe for the U.S. national dressage team, including the four riders who last year claimed an Olympic bronze medal in Rio. Dover’s passion for dressage was what inspired him to start American Equestrians Got Talent as a means to raise money for the USEF High Performance Programs.
The money accumulated over the weeks is passed on to the United States Equestrian Federation. The financial success of this program has helped allow the riders perform to their highest potential. In Rio all three disciplines took home medals.
For the audience, it ends up being a fun night for a good cause.
At one point during the evening after seeing such incredible performances, Dover asked the audience, “Do American Equestrians Got Talent?” Clearly this night had reinforced the fact that they do.
PJ Rizvi, Margaret Duprey, Chip McKenney and Laura Kraut, who were the judges for the event, clearly agreed.
In fact, after Richardson finished her final performance, Rizvi commented, “Your performance showed that you have beauty, elegance and grace. You can do anything.”
Kraut added, “I am not worthy to comment.” For Duprey it was simply, “I am speechless.”
The next AEGT audition is set for Wednesday, Feb. 8 at the Grande Ballroom located at 12150 Forest Hill Boulevard, Wellington, Florida 33414. Contact Robert Dover at Rdover2@aol.com or (561) 758-6186 about auditions. Walk-in performers may be accepted if time permits.
Dinner for Week V begins at 6 p.m. and the show begins at 7 p.m. Contact Patty Scott for tickets at: (917) 318-0425 or firstname.lastname@example.org.