St. Louis Teen Talent Competition 2023 Finalists

St. Louis Teen Talent Competition – 2023 Finalists

Yrwin Batan


Age 16 – Junior, Saint Louis Priory High School

Yrwin has been receiving piano lessons for the past six years from four instructors, most recently Garik Pedersen. He has only been composing for a little over a year. After high school Yrwin plans to attend college to study computer science to become a software engineer, and as time permits, continue to pursue his music endeavors.

Saisha Bhutani

Traditional Indian Dancer

Age 17 – Junior, Clayton High School

Since the age of five, Saisha has been training in Bharatanatyam and recently completed her Bharatanatyam Arangetram at the school of Dances of India, one of the oldest Indian classical dance companies in the US. In 2018 she was one of six dancers to perform in a short musical film Ganga River Eternal which has been screened nationally and internationally. After high school Saisha plans to attend college majoring in cognitive science with a minor in dance, hopefully combining the two into an artistic therapy such as music and dance therapy.

Cats Jazz Collective

Jazz Band

KATHERINE TEETER Age 17 – Senior, Webster Groves High School
BECKETT MITCHELL Age 17 – Junior, Webster Groves High School
AUDREY BRENNER Age 16 – Sophomore, Webster Groves High School
EVAN CHRISTMAN Age 18 – Senior, Webster Groves High School
MILES COLES Age 16 – Junior, Webster Groves High School
ZACH ANDREWS Age 17 – Senior, Webster Groves High School (Not Pictured)

Katherine (vocals) is a self-taught vocalist and guitarist and currently receives jazz training in high school. She plans to attend college in New York City or Los Angeles to study music business.

Beckett (drums) has been playing drums for five years and receives lessons from Kevin Gianino. After high school he plans to attend college.

Audrey (bass) has been playing bass for six years and takes double bass lessons at Dave’s Guitar Loft and is in multiple jazz bands. After high school Audrey plans to go to a college with a good music program and become a teacher and a performing musician.

Evan (alto saxophone) has been playing multiple instruments since he was three years old and is self-taught and for the past three years he has been particularly interested in jazz. He would like to attend a music school in New York to attain a PhD in music and then teach at a conservatory.

Miles (keyboard) has been taking piano lessons from Carolbeth True for eleven years and jazz piano for four years. He has also been taking jazz trombone lessons from Michael Dease for the past six years. After high school Miles wants to attend a prestigious music school to play jazz professionally and wants to make an impact on the world musically.

Zach (trombone) has been playing trombone for seven years and has taken lessons with Wayne Coniglio and Michael Dease. After high school Zach plans to attend a university to study music performance and hopes to play professionally.

Drum Warriors Ensemble


SOLOMON AHMED Age 17 – Junior, Grand Center Arts Academy
ISMAIL BOTCHWAY Age 17 – Junior, Collegiate School of Medicine and Bio Science
ADDISON JONES Age 15 – Sophomore, Clayton High School,
CORRIN WARD Age 17 – Junior, Carnahan High School

Solomon and Corrin have been drumming for six years and Ismail and Addison have both been drumming for eleven years. This team of young men have been friends since meeting in summer camp more than ten years ago. Training under Vivian Watt, Edward Brown, the late Baba Dhati Kennedy and supported by Miranda Walker Jones and the Little Bit Foundation, DWE has performed for Festival of Nations, International Festival of Nations, Black Dance USA, Muny Community Presentations, African Arts Festival, Maplewood Arts Fair and much more. They are each an entrepreneur in their own rights and look forward to bright futures in their chosen genres from business, arts, technology and sports. The young men would like to dedicate their performance in memory of Baba Gary “Dhati” Kennedy.

Cortland English


Age 17 – Junior, O’Fallon Township High School

In addition to high school, Cortland has received training with Jamie Eros at Stages Academy. Cortland has had a passion for singing and acting since he was very young and watching his older brother perform (also a Teen Talent finalist) has solidified his drive to perform. After high school Cortland wants to attend college to become a dentist and also follows his dream of singing and acting.

Kyla Gerhardt


Age 18 – Senior, Granite City High School

Kyla has been singing and performing for the past 16 years and has received voice training from Maria Ellis. Singing has always been her passion. Kyla has been accepted into 21 colleges and plans to double major in Early Childhood Development and Music.

Ava Hettenhausen


Age 16 – Junior, O’Fallon Township High School

Ava loves musical theatre and has performed in many shows, most recently as “Belle” in her high school’s production of “Beauty and the Beast.” She was nominated for Best Actress at the St. Louis High School Musical Theatre Awards. She trains with Kim Stamps in Edwardsville and with Marc Schapman and Joe Welch at SIUE through Opera Theatre of St. Louis’ Artists in Training Program. After high school Ava plans to continue studying music and performing arts along with psychology and music therapy.

Ariana Kroeger


Age 17 – Senior, Clayton High School

Ariana has been performing since she was nine years old and trains at Gateway Center for Performing Arts, studying voice with Katie Kopff. After high school Ariana plans to attend college for a BFA in Musical Theatre and hopes to become a professional musical theatre performer.

Anna Layher

Circus Arts

Age 18 – Senior, Nerinx Hall High School

Anna has been involved with circus for 12 years and has studied extensively with Circus Harmony and performed at the City Museum under the guidance of Jessica Hentoff. Her circus skills also include trapeze, aerials, and partner aerial. After high school Anna plans to attend Circus College and become a professional circus arts performer.

Kyleigh McCourt

Baton Twirler

Age 17 – Junior, Mehlville High School

Kyleigh started twirling at the age of eight and spent the next nine years falling in love with the sport. She trains at Saint Louis Performance Academy, under the direction of Emily Hawkins and won the 2022 show twirl title at the state, regional, and national level with the routine you will see tonight. After high school Kyleigh plans to attend college for a degree in Elementary Education with a minor in Clinical Psychology.

Avery Payne


Age 16 – Sophomore, Orchard Farm High School

Avery has been dancing since she was two years old and has received training from Tracy and Debbie Davenport and Amy Gammon at the Performing Arts Center. She also dances with Dance Company of St. Charles as a First Company Concert dancer. After high school Avery wants to continue her dancing career with the ambition of becoming a Radio City Rockette!

Rayquan Strickland

Singer, Songwriter, & Musician

Age 18 – Senior, Central Visual & Performing Arts High School

Rayquan is a singer, songwriter, musician and minister who has received piano lessons from Jazz St. Louis. Time for Change was written during the pandemic after losing a cousin to gun violence. He was brought up in the church where from a young age he sang in the choir and he has been playing piano for six years. Rayquan has been accepted into Morehouse College where he plans to pursue a doctoral degree while majoring in both Music and Religion.

Noah Van Ess


Age 17 – Senior, Lindbergh High School

Noah has been an active member within the St. Louis youth theater community since he was a small child. He has participated in a wide variety of productions in St. Louis such as “The Sound of Music” and “Sweeney Todd” (MUNY); “Bright Star” (Visitation Academy); and “Titanic: The Musical” (GCPA). He studies voice and piano with Dr. Philip A. Woodmore and plans to attend college to pursue musical theatre and become a professional actor.

Cindy Yan


Age 16 – Junior, Ladue Horton Watkins High School

Cindy has played piano for 11 years and studies with Laura Schindler, making her orchestral debut at age 10 with the University City Symphony Orchestra as the youngest winner of the William Schatzkamer Concerto Competition. Cindy is a multi-award-winning pianist and won 1st place in the New York Steinway Competition in 2018 and is a six-time winner in the annual Missouri Music Teachers Association State Competition in solo piano. She has performed with numerous regional orchestras and volunteers as a pianist with the Ladue Strolling Strings. She plans to attend college and pursue a pre-med track while minoring in music.