The top 12 finalists pose on stage.

“If we’re all brought together by music, that’s all that matters.” These poignant words came from Xavier Santiago ’21 as the “CSI’s Got Talent” winner proudly accepted his $2,250 prize at the Center for the Arts. The sixth annual event took place on April 26, as 12 hopefuls duked it out to see who would take home the top three prizes. $750 went to runner up Taronuhi Hacjana and $250 for third place winner Kristiana Tattos.

The night kicked off with a slew of laughs as Staten Island natives Sal Vulcano of truTv’s hit show Impractical Jokers, and Jay Miller of Midevenings with Jay Miller, joked, “If you lack skill it’s going to be curtains for you!”  Prior to the talent hitting the stage, the event (funded by WSIA-FM, Student Government, and the Campus Activities Board) rules were explained as follows: five points for creativity/originality, skill, stage presence, and audience reaction, and ten points for performance. Joined by judges Alan Hoffner, Richard Krystoforski, Serena Medina (Winner of 2016 CSI’s Got Talent), Frances Melendez, Emanoil Shafik, and Alexis DiBenedetto, the audience sat anxiously awaiting the night’s shining stars.

With these rules in mind, the top 12 rose beyond everyone’s expectations. Performers Joe Grahek and Olivia Angioli started the night off with serenades, smoothly singing through their renditions of “If I Could Dream,” and “Secret Love Song, Part Two,” respectively. Jennifer Hernandez and her partner raised the temperature in the building with their Columbian-inspired dance number “La Bella,” while Rachel Waldman left judge Shafik “speechless” with her cover of Miley Cyrus’s “Wrecking Ball.”

Jordan Corman passionately strummed his way through the soft punk ballad “Drowned,” which Desiree Sanchez followed with an upbeat performance of Meghan Trainor’s popular summer hit “Me Too.” With the audience on a sonic high, Xavier Santiago melted hearts with his emotionally drenched version of “Everything I Do.” Ramzi Braktia offered a humor-filled dance routine titled “Wolfstein.” GeGe Ahmed belted out a soul filled “Who’s Loving You” that would have arguably made Michael Jackson himself proud, and Kristiana Tattos offered a beautiful and vulnerable “Medicine,” which cured any doubt in the crowd of this campus’s talent.

Xavier Santiago took home the grand prize.

Rounding out the top 12, Ariel Lontac bravely took on Adele’s “One & Only,” while Hacjana stood as the only contestant to perform an original song, “Wonder.” With the immense talent filling the room, it was clear that the judges had a lot to debate before choosing the top five.

After a brief intermission, the hosts kept the good energy going with countless punchlines referencing their “favorite band” Coldplay, and an impromptu skit featuring the “unsuspecting,” audience member Tim, who was duct-taped to a chair for most of the remainder of the show. With everyone sitting on the edge of their seats, the top five finalists were revealed in no particular order. Jennifer Hernandez, Rachel Waldman, Xavier Santiago, Kristiana Tattos, and PYOR, advanced to the competition’s final round, and they came to win.

Jennifer and her partner were “hot! hot! hot!” with their second dance routine of the night, which left just about everyone in the room reaching for something to fan themselves. Rachel Waldman followed up with a chilling interpretation of “Hallelujah,” while Tattos concluded her second live performance in four years with “Burning House.” As the show ended, Hacjana debuted another original tune with “Close,” bringing audience members to their feet. However, it was Santiago’s performance of Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel,” which stole the show, and judge’s hearts. Placing a single rose on the judge’s table, Santiago’s vocals filled the Williamson Theatre as the crowd couldn’t help but cheer and scream.

After a lengthy deliberation in which the hosts treated the crowd to a comedic cover of “It’s Raining Men,”—the judges made what was arguably the toughest decision of the night. Coming in third, Kristiana Tattos gracefully accepted her prize, while runner up Hacjana thanked the crowd for the “best part,” their cheering.

After collecting his first-place grand prize, Santiago proudly held his earning over his head as he gazed out into a crowd of chants.

Perhaps the most touching moment of the time came in the form of solidarity. Despite their differing ages, races, genres, and talents, every performer repeated a single phrase that could have strung together to form a song, “Good luck to the other contestants, and congratulations.”