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Local singer shines in Shining Star CLE 2021 competition

Posted October 04, 2021 in Articles

Author: Dan Holland

Highland High School junior Emelia Aceto proudly walked away from the Shining Star CLE 2021 singing competition this year a bit more polished and with a $1,000 college scholarship under her belt following a fourth-place finish.

Aceto, who was a top-25 finalist in last year’s competition, qualified as a top-10 finalist this year, earning her a ticket to the final round of competition, which was live-streamed on social media platforms Aug. 29.

The Cleveland-area competition, sponsored annually by the Menorah Park Foundation, is an annual fundraiser for the memory care programs offered at the Menorah Park senior care facility in Beachwood. Not only does Shining Star CLE provide high school students with an opportunity to display their talents in a virtual format, it also allows them to compete for nearly $20,000 in scholarship money.

More than 200 high school performers competed in the 2021 competition.

Aceto said having a grandparent who suffered from dementia in his later years provided her with additional motivation to enter the competition.

“In looking into the competition, I realized how great a cause this was to support memory care,” she said. “Of course, the college scholarship is a very nice thing, too.”

Aceto, who was the first to take the stage during the finals, chose to sing “Defying Gravity” from the Broadway musical “Wicked.”

“I’ve always loved that song,” she said. “It’s a great song with a powerful message about self-empowerment and using your talents to push yourself further instead of relying on validation from others.”

Aceto, who performs with two choirs and participates in the honors music program at Highland, has performed in several regional and national singing competitions, as well as a number of school musicals. She will appear in the lead role of Fantine this fall in the school’s production of “Les Misérables.”

Aceto also was cast in the leading role of Maria for a production of “West Side Story” that was set to debut at the Akron Civic Theater in 2020. That production, however, ended up being cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Aceto, who is the daughter of Chris and Effie Aceto of Hinckley Township, said she draws inspiration from her father, a local singer and musician, as well as her uncle, Raymond Aceto, a world-renowned opera singer who frequently performs with the Metropolitan Opera in New York City.

Following graduation, Emelia said she plans to study and pursue a career in musical theater.

“I just want to see how far I can take it, because it is my biggest passion – either musical theater or vocal performance in opera.”

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