Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Curie singers' Cinderella story ends; eliminated on America's Got Talent

By Tim Hadac
Managing Editor
Southwest Chicago Post

Musicality crashed into reality this week, as the 17-member singing group from Curie High School fell short in its bid to win fame and fortune on America’s Got Talent.

Up against strong competition that included other singers, a stand-up comedian, a magician, a 12-year-old songwriter/ukulele player, dancers, a child who sings like an opera diva, a mime named Tape Face and even a knife thrower, the Southwest Side teens sang their hearts out on live TV Tuesday night and then crossed their fingers. They hoped to attract the number of viewer votes needed to advance to the final round of the competition, watched by millions on NBC stations across the nation and even around the world.

On the AGT "results" episode that aired live Wednesday night, Musicality was one of six acts axed by lack of viewer support. Five acts advanced to the AGT finals.

Tuesday’s performance was Musicality’s cover of “Born This Way,” a smash hit for Lady Gaga in 2011—a song that celebrates individuality, personal empowerment and which has become an anthem of sorts for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender teens, as well as others cast as square pegs in a round-hole world.

While viewers decide who makes the final cut, AGT’s four celebrity judges doubtless have the ability to influence opinions. One of those judges, former Spice Girl Mel B, offered an uncharacteristically harsh take on Musicality Tuesday night, calling their singing little more than “a well-rehearsed school performance….that wasn’t good enough for me tonight.”

Her words were greeted with jeers by some of the audience members at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.

AGT’s pre-performance video about Musicality was consistent
A goofy-face Musicality selfie helps break the tension of the competition.
with the show’s ongoing portrayal of the group as a kind of against-the-odds vocal ensemble trying to survive in an underfunded public school system in a dangerous and crime-infested part of Chicago—a characterization that has rankled some at the school and in the surrounding Archer Heights neighborhood.

“I don’t like that the show’s producers are pushing this ‘ghetto kids who can sing’ narrative,” said Curie alumni mom Sheryl Whittaker at a local viewing party Tuesday night. “These kids should be judged on their own merit. They have the God-given talent to win this contest. Just let them be themselves.”

Brighton Park resident Jaime EncarnaciĆ³n said he was OK with the characterization. “Look, I like where I live, but if one these kids says, ‘I’m afraid to walk to school in the morning,’ who are we to deny their fear? This is Curie High School, not New Trier, not Hinsdale.”

Musicality founder/director Michael E. Gibson, an acclaimed music educator, vocalist, composer, arranger, director and producer, has taught at Curie for 11 years--first as a piano instructor and later as chorus director and music director for the school's plays.

While the group is known for its exuberance and life-affirming style, it is also an organized, disciplined group of vocal artists. Their work is available for purchase online at

In the wake of Musicality’s brush with international fame, the student ensemble will come home from Los Angeles and perform at the next meeting of the Archer Heights Civic Association, set for 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 14 in the Curie High School auditorium. Card-carrying AHCA members who are up-to-date with their membership dues will have access to reserved seating. Remaining seats will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis.

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