Greenburgh Competition Showcases Seniors' Talents

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Norma Jean Barnes dances at the Golden Talent Competition, an event hosted at the Theodore D. Young Community Center on Friday. Photo Credit: Samantha Kramer

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- You're never too old to belly dance, which Norma Jean Barnes proved on Friday at the Golden Talent Contest in Greenburgh's Theodore D. Young Community Center.

Barnes, 53, joined dozens of other contestants in the seventh annual competition that showcases the talents of citizens age 50 and older. George Coniglio, director of senior citizen and older adults programs and services at the center, said he decided to create the program after his love for the television show "American Idol."

"I love "American Idol," but I didn't like that you wouldn't see a lot of older people competing," Coniglio said. "This way you get to showcase the talents of seniors and have a really nice afternoon of entertainment."

More than 100 people attended the event, many of the audience members arriving from assisted-care centers like CenterLight Healthcare of White Plains and the Young Adult Institution of Elmsford.

In its former six years, the competition was only open to singing. But this year, Coniglio opened it up to dancing and poetry reading, giving the competition its highest number of participants ever, he said.

Jennifer Miller, 55, came from her home in Manhattan to show off her voice.

"Singing is my passion. I think I've got a good shot at winning," Miller said, who sang "Close to You" by the Carpenters. "I'm just going to sing from my heart. There's a season for everyone; maybe today is my season."

DJ Anna Vitagliano provided the music, comprising mostly oldies, opera, Gospel and Broadway songs. The audience often joined in by clapping to the beat, as they did when Josephine Henderson, 86, sang "Thank You Jesus" a cappella. 

Like "American Idol," Golden Talent had three judges, who nicknamed themselves after the show's original judges, Simon, Randy and Paula -- but remained silent instead of offering criticism. The competition awarded first, second and third prize trophies, and the winners all received an offer for a paid gig at future "Live Music Fridays," a weekly event held by the community center.

But Elizabeth David said she didn't come for the prize -- she just wants to enjoy a fun afternoon.

"I've been Gospel singing since I was a little girl. I just love to sing, and it's about being here and having a good time," David said.

For more information about future events hosted by the community center, call Coniglio at 914-989-3622.

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