Breaking into the entertainment industry is not easy. Many factors play into “making it big” like knowing the right people, being better than the next guy and having the strength to keep swimming against the tide. For Asian Americans, it can be even harder with the abundance of media-driven stereotypes and lack of resources.

Kollaboration is an Asian and Pacific Islander (API) non-profit organization that hosts talent competitions and brings visibility to performers in mainstream entertainment and media. Kollaboration Chicago hosted Showcase 2016 on July 9th at the intimate Lincoln Hall.

Each year, the Showcase features performances by finalists in which they are judged and a winner is chosen, as well as guest performances by Asian Americans that have gained a presence in the entertainment industry.

Kollaboration Chicago Showcase 2016 staff, finalists and guests

Kollaboration Chicago Showcase 2016 staff, finalists and guests

The Showcase kicked off with an energetic opening by Chicago-based recording artist MER, who served as the MC for the event. The performances by the finalists began and it was clear that each member of the audience had their expectations exceeded by a long shot. Each had something special and different to bring to the table. Andrea Kim kicked off the show with inspiring vocals and lyrics, Paul Yang wooed the crowd with next-level beat boxing skills, Nadia Choi sang her heart out, Jason Vinluan gave a whole new meaning to playing the violin, Ranee Harder rocked out and Tou Ger Digit Lee had us wondering how a body could move so quickly and gracefully.

What made the Showcase even more special was that it brought out the qualities in each that are not usually highlighted in performers, from a high school teacher that looks to music for healing to a church boy beat boxer that hopes to use his talents for inspiring others and a college girl that discovered the power of music while playing for a hospice center.

In the end, Jason Vinluan went home with the prize for his excellent violin performance and it will be exciting to watch where his musical career brings him to next.

The afternoon closed out with performances by three guest performers that have each grown significantly in their careers and have been involved with Kollaboration for a few years. Dhaea Kang, winner of the 2015 Chicago Showcase, came out first to perform with her band and one of the best beat boxers around. JR Aquino was up next with a voice to fall in love to and finally, AJ Rafael with his smooth voice and sweet lyrics. The two even hopped on the stage together, which had nearly everyone in the crowd singing along.

Kollaboration Showcase 2016 was a very moving event, with a wealth of talent and positivity flowing from beginning to end. Each performer brought something different to the table and has tons of potential to make it to the top. Looking forward to see how they will grow in their career and wish them all the luck!