Wellington, FL - Bermuda native Ki-Juan Minors is no stranger to being in the spotlight, and now he is making a bid for the title of America's Most Talented Equestrian. The crowd on Wednesday night at The Grille Fashion Cuisine in Wellington overwhelmingly selected him as the winner of the second round of American Equestrians Got Talent auditions after his incredible performances of Roberta Flack's "Killing Me Softly" and Bruno Mars' "When I Was Your Man." Auditions continue every Wednesday through March 15, with the exception of next week, when auditions take place Tuesday evening, Jan. 20, at The Grille. The celebrity judges - Mason Phelps Jr., founder and president of Phelps Media Group; Tim Dutta, CEO of The Dutta Corporation; and Lisa Wilcox, Grand Prix dressage competitor and Olympic medalist - were blown away by Minors' performance. Wilcox even joked, "Ki-Juan, you are killing me softly!"
This wasn't Minors' first time showing off his impressive pipes to the Wellington crowd, as he was named 2008 Equestrian Idol and has sung the national anthem at popular events like the Hampton Classic and the Trump Invitational.
Despite his clear talent and comfort on the stage, Minors hasn't had formal voice training.
"My mom was in a group years ago, and she always had my sister and me singing," Minors said. "My sister and I started a group when we were younger and we did song competitions and sang at weddings. We even opened for Patti LaBelle when she came to Bermuda in 2001."
The judges and many spectators even suggested that the professional rider, who is a show jumping competitor and an ambassador for TuffRider, take advantage of his amazing musical gifts and make a career shift. "I have considered breaking into the singing world, but it's a bit of a rocky road trying to break into the music industry," Minors said. "Horses are my heart and music is my soul."
As the audition winner, Minors earned a $500 prize sponsored by PSdressage.com and a spot in the lineup for the March 15 finale at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival show grounds, where he will square off against the other weekly winners for a shot at the $5,000 grand prize sponsored by Robert Ross, P.A., Luxury Equestrian Realtor for Keller Williams. With these awards on the line, Minors had plenty of competition.
Nicky Greed was the first on stage and was representing the para-equestrian program. He sang John Legend's "Ordinary People." Greed's performance was followed by a change of pace as dressage rider Alana Bernhardt took the stage to perform a yoga exhibition. Bernhardt walked spectators through some breathing exercises and basic poses and encouraged everyone to participate, even welcoming a volunteer on the stage.
Aislinn Miroir left the music behind and sang a difficult French a cappella piece for the audience. Following a great response from spectators, the judges commented that her voice was beautiful enough to stand alone without the distraction of music.
Dressage rider and trainer Rick Rockefeller-Silvia belted The Lion King's famous "Circle of Life," written by Elton John. Silvia had a positive response from the crowd, and Phelps said, "If you leave dressage, you may find a spot on Broadway!"
After Minors wowed the crowd with "Killing Me Softly," all competitors were welcomed back on stage to determine who would earn a spot in the top three and return for the sing-off. The crowd's enthusiastic applause for Miroir, Rockefeller-Silvia and Minors gave those three the chance to perform again. While Miroir and Rockefeller-Silvia gave it a good effort, Minors' final performance of "When I Was Your Man" stole the night.
The next audition will be held Tuesday, Jan. 20, and then auditions return to Wednesdays every week through March 4. Sign up to audition by contacting Robert Dover (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Several sponsors, led by Robert Ross, Kim and Fred Boyer, Equestrian Sport Productions, Tuny and David Page, and PSdressage.com, are supporting this exciting event. If you are interested in becoming a sponsor, please contact Sara Ike (908-234-1251 or (email@example.com) or Robert Dover (Rdover2@aol.com).
American Equestrians Got Talent Fast Facts
- Spearheaded by U.S. Dressage Team Chef d'Equipe Robert Dover, American Equestrians Got Talent is the third annual East Coast fundraiser to benefit USEF High Performance Dressage programs through the USET Foundation.
- Contestants audition to earn their place in the season finale. Celebrity judges will be on hand at each audition to critique the performances, and the audience's applause will determine who moves forward to the finale and who goes back to the barn.
When: Every Wednesday evening from Jan. 7 through March 4, 2015. Next week's audition has been moved to Tuesday, Jan. 20, from 7:30 p.m. - 10:00 p.m.
Where: The Grille Fashion Cuisine, 12300 South Shore Blvd., Wellington, Florida
Prize: PSdressage.com is sponsoring prizes of $500 to be awarded to the top performer at each audition.
Participants: Auditions are open to the entire equestrian community, including riders, grooms and others involved in any discipline from dressage and hunter/jumpers to polo and Western. Please sign up in advance by contacting Robert Dover (Rdover2@aol.com). Walk-ins accepted if space is available.
When: March 15, 2015
Where: The Stadium at PBIEC (Global Dressage Festival show grounds), 13500 South Shore Blvd., Wellington, Florida
Prize: The winner, who will be named America's Most Talented Equestrian, will receive a grand prize of $5,000 sponsored by Robert Ross, P.A., Luxury Equestrian Realtor for Keller Williams.
The United States Equestrian Team Foundation is the non-profit organization that supports the competition, training, coaching, travel and educational needs of America's elite and developing international, high-performance horses and athletes in partnership with the United States Equestrian Federation.
The USET Foundation has been awarded Charity Navigator's highest honor, a Four Star rating for good governance, sound fiscal management and commitment to accountability and transparency.