Wellington, Fla. – March 20, 2017 – Cassie Ortiz took the stage for the Finale of American Equestrians Got Talent (AEGT) Sunday night and shyly addressed the audience as her mass of curls tossed in the wind. She quietly thanked show organizer Robert Dover for selecting her as one of the three “Wild Card” contestants he chose to perform at the Finale from those who didn’t make the cut during the nine-week audition process. Then, she sang.
Her powerful voice was a showstopper as she performed “Gimme Gimme” from Broadway’s “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” and it was clear that Ortiz meant it when she belted out the lyrics “gimme gimme.” She wanted the $10,000 prize donated by Robert Ross of Keller Williams Real Estate Luxury Division and the petite 16-year-old was not to be denied.
The judges were impressed. Leslie Gray Streeter, pop culture writer for “The Palm Beach Post,” called Ortiz “flawless,” and Lawrence Toppall, a producer of top Broadway shows, said she was “incredible.” New York talent manager Ashwood Kavanna told her, “You’re there,” and documentary producer Ron Davis said he felt like he was on Broadway while sitting in the middle of the Stadium at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival showgrounds in Wellington, Florida.
When Ortiz made it to the final round along with fellow singers Michael Boone, and Grady Lyman, and dancers Kylie Peitz and Alex Jones, she was shocked.
“There was so much talent on the stage, I was seriously doubting myself for a while,” she said. “I was surprised I got into the second round. I thought, ‘How am I going to compete against all the people I lost to in the previous weeks?’”
She had nothing to fear as she as she sang a Whitney Houston medley combining “I Have Nothing” and “I Will Always Love You,” an idea she conceived, and she and her vocal coach, Mike Soper from Wellington, brought to life.
Once again, the judges were impressed. Mark Belissimo, the CEO of Wellington Equestrian Partners, asked her to sing in New York at his Central Park Horse Show in the fall and he immediately pulled out his phone to vote for her via text. Roxanne Stein, a news anchor from WPTV in West Palm Beach, told her she just had to win. Candice Glover, the winner of American Idol season 12, said it was obvious Ortiz came to win, adding, “She is not playing.” Kavanna told her she took those difficult songs to the upper level and called her a pro.
Alex Jones and Kylie Peitz. DDeRosa photo.
Ortiz dreams of musical theatre on Broadway. “Ultimately I want to be a performer, whether it’s a performing artist, Broadway, regional theatre, anything like that,” she said. “My plan is to go to college, but if something popped up, I would shoot for it.”
She plans to take her winnings and buy a PA system for the band she is creating and to put away a majority of the prize money. “And I’m also going to go shopping—you know, the usual stuff,” the young Wellington resident said.
Meanwhile, she’ll continue her studies at the G-Star School of the Arts in Palm Springs, Florida, and continue her lessons with her vocal coach.
“Cassie is amazing,” Soper said. “She is both talented and humble – a rare combination. Cassie and her father came into my studio about three years ago and, right from that day, I could tell she had a beautiful, crystal clear voice. She’s an extremely hard worker and takes what she does very seriously. Her talent is matched by her integrity.”
Robert Dover, the chef d’equipe for the bronze medal winning US Dressage Team at the Olympic Games in Rio, is also the creator of AEGT as a way to raise funds for the US Equestrian High Performance Programs. He was thrilled with the level of talent displayed during the third season of the event and in the Finale.
“I thought it as an amazing night of entertainment,” he said. Other finalists included Alix Who?, Laura León, Olivia Willis, Robyn Marie Lamp and Edgar Miguel Abréu, Roberto Gallardo, Robert Nichols, Zach Duckworth, Kyanuee Richardson, Frances Novella, and Brandon Olavarria. “It was a great night for our community and for our US Equestrian High-Performance Programs. I don’t know how much money we made, but I do know that we are a lot further along than we were before these last nine weeks. I’m thrilled and very, very hopeful that we have a record amount from the event this year.”