TalentQuest Florida can turn into a real blast

Published Feb. 27, 2013

TalentQuest opens doors

Jeremiah Pagan's TalentQuest Florida experience turned into just that in 2012: a quest that took the University of South Florida voice major from Tampa to an audience of music lovers and music producers in Laughlin, Nev.

Pagan earned the title of men's pop national champion and $3,500.

Pagan's message as he prepared to perform at TalentQuest Florida's stage at the Florida Strawberry Festival tonight: another stellar singer could enjoy the amazing opportunity he experienced last year.

"It's another outlet for musicians to showcase their talent," said Pagan, 24. "Because it's called a karaoke competition, people wonder if it's legit, but it's definitely a legitimate competition.

"There are very talented people who come out. The majority of people who actually qualify to go to the regional competition tend to be pretty good artists."

TalentQuest Florida co-founder Phil Garris says his company offers a "karaoke contest times 10,000." The competition runs throughout the year with contestants going through different stages to earn a spot in the state competition that's held at the DoubleTree Hotel West­shore in Tampa. The state winners represent Florida at the national TalentQuest singing competition in Nevada.

In eight years, six national champions have emerged from Florida, but lesser talents have found the competition to be a good place to improve thanks to critique sheets from judges.

"My first year, I finished eighth," said Pagan, who hopes to earn a spot on NBC's The Voice.

Garris said it's a unique opportunity being offered by TalentQuest at the festival tonight and March 8: any singer who earns a score of 100 (out of possible 150) goes straight through to the state competition.

The first 30 to sign up at the TalentQuest website and pay the $25 entry fee perform tonight, along with some past performers such as Pagan. If time permits, they will allow people to sign up for one of the three categories: country, pop (any contemporary song outside of rap) and over-50.

For details, visit

— Ernest Hooper, Times staff writer