Grammy Nominated Songwriter, Chart-Topping Performer & World-
Returning for his third year, Jim Brickman’s distinctive piano style and captivating live performances, have revolutionized the popularity of instrumental music, making him a driving force behind modern American music. The hit-making songwriter is the best-selling solo pianist of our time, earning 22 Number One albums and 32 Top 20 Radio Singles. He’s garnered two Grammy nominations, Gospel Music’s Dove Award, two SESAC Songwriter of the Year Awards, a Canadian Country Music Award, and is a member of Pandora’s “2 Billion Songs” Club. Born in Cleveland, Ohio Brickman is one of pop-music’s most fascinating success stories. He jumped from a career as a jingle writer of famous tunes for advertising, to reviving the romantic standard of the popular song. His first album release was 1995’s “No Words,” and he’s gone on to sell ten million albums worldwide. Brickman’s captivating Live experiences span 25 years, with eclectic performances from the Troubadour, Grand Ole Opry, and Carnegie Hall to thousands of sold-out concerts throughout the world. His star-studded vocal collaborations have featured artists like, Martina McBride, Carly Simon, Lady Antebellum, Michael W. Smith, Herb Alpert, Michael Bolton, Donny Osmond, Kenny Rogers, Olivia Newton-John, Johnny Mathis, Kenny Loggins, and Five For Fighting. He’s written three best-selling books, starred in four TV concert specials, and is in the 23rd season of hosting the popular syndicated radio show: “The Jim Brickman Show.” Most recently, Jim released his 25th Anniversary Album where Brickman Sings Brickman and Soothe Christmas is due out next month. He also hosts a weekly podcast the Brickman Bedtime Story, which focuses on inspirational stories , special guests, and ways to calm and chill at bedtime on Pandora, Apple Music, Spotify and Facebook LIVE. “Hope,” “Faith” and “Peace” are truly at the heart of Jim Brickman’s passionate songwriting. “I write music to be shared — to soothe, to inspire, to celebrate, to love. To me, music is the pure and simple soundtrack to life’s most memorable moments.” As a true artist that lives and breathes the music he creates, Jim Brickman is thrilled to introduce fans to his most recent songs and perform them live in concert halls across the world.
Contemporary Jazz Singer
Returning for her third year, Trisha O’Brien, a native Clevelander, is a jazz singer who has performed in Cleveland, as well as New York, Palm Beach, Chicago, Paris and Amsterdam. Locally she sang for years at Nighttown, Club Isabella, the Cleveland Playhouse Club and courtyard concerts at the Cleveland Museum of Art. She performed at the Royal Room at the Colony Hotel and Club Colette in Palm Beach as well as Feinstein’s at the Regency, Joe’s Pub, and Theater For the New City, among others in New York. Her most recent CD “Out of a Dream” is composed of jazz standards from the Great American Songbook. Trisha continues to promote hope and healing through her music and has performed at numerous charitable events. Cleveland’s Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital honored her by naming the performance area for music therapy and other entertainment for children The Trisha O’Brien Pavilion. Trisha now resides in Palm Beach, Florida and New York City.
Rashad V. Chambers
Founder and President of Esquire Entertainment
Returning for his fourth year, Rashad V. Chambers is a Tony award nominated producer, talent manager and lawyer. His notable producing credits include the Broadway productions American Son, Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of The Temptations, Betrayal and The Inheritance as well as It Happened In Key West (London). Rashad’s first feature film, “True to the Heart,” won four awards at the Long Island International Film Expo and was an official selection at the Big Apple Film Festival. In addition, his short film, “Hunger,” was an official selection at the Urban World Film Festival and Latino Film Market Festival. Rashad attended Morehouse College where he graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Administration. He also earned his JD and MBA degrees from The Ohio State University. A licensed attorney in New York and Connecticut, Rashad is the Founder and President of Esquire Entertainment. www.esquireentertainment.com. Upcoming projects include: Caroline, or Change and Little Girl Blue: The Nina Simone Musical.
Artistic Director and Conductor, Cleveland Pops Orchestra
Returning for his fifth year as a judge of the Shining Star, Carl Topilow is Music Director and Founding Conductor of Cleveland Pops Orchestra. His eclectic programs, including the music of Broadway, Hollywood, jazz, rock, and light classics, have been critically acclaimed by audiences and critics alike. Topilow enjoys a dual career as both conductor and clarinetist, usually finding an occasion to perform a selection with the Pops on one of his brightly colored clarinets. Carl is also conductor of the Firelands Symphony Orchestra, based in Sandusky, and Music Advisor of the National Repertory Orchestra, a summer festival in Breckenridge, Colorado a OH. He was named Faculty Emeritus after 37 years as Conductor and Director of the Orchestral Program at the Cleveland Institute of Music. Topilow has performed as guest conductor with 125 different orchestras in 37 states and 12 foreign countries. His wife Shirley is the President and CEO of the Cleveland Pops Orchestra. Their daughter Jenny is a violinist with the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra. Their daughter Emily, a recent graduate of Bowling Green State University, is pursuing her career in marketing. Carl is excited about his book, The Orchestral Conductor’s Career Handbook, published by Rowman and Littlefield, which will be coming out this summer.
American Actor, Singer & Songwriter
Returning for his second year, Telly was born and raised in New York City. He grew up in a traditional Chinese home in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. He is a proud alumni of New York’s prestigious math & science specialized high school, Stuyvesant High School. After Stuyvesant, Telly was admitted to Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Drama (CMU), where he received most of his formal training in acting, singing, and dance. In the fall of 2002, Telly made his Broadway debut in the revival of ‘Flower Drum Song”, starring Lea Salonga, as a member of the ensemble and an understudy for Wang Ta. Telly originated the role of Boq in the Chicago company of WICKED, collaborating with fellow CMU-alum, Stephen Schwartz. Other Broadway credits include the final company of RENT – where he also got to make his film debut in Radical Media / Sony’s RENT: FILMED LIVE ON BROADWAY, which is available on DVD and Blue Ray. After RENT ended its Broadway run, Telly went on an international tour with original RENT stars Adam Pascal and Anthony Rapp in RENT: THE BROADWAY TOUR. He would later reprise the role of Angel in RENT at the Hollywood Bowl, directed by Neil Patrick Harris and starring Vanessa Hudgens, Aaron Tveit, Skylar Astin, & Wayne Brady. In 2011, Telly would get another opportunity to collaborate with composer Stephen Schwartz in the Broadway revival of GODSPELL at the Circle in the Square Theater. In 2016, Telly starred opposite Justin Guarini (American Idol) in IN TRANSIT, Broadway’s first a cappella musical and in June 2017, Telly Leung began his star turn as the title character in Disney’s ALADDIN on Broadway. He would continue to play the role for two years. Telly has performed live all over the world. Notable venues include Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, the Hollywood Bowl, the Baltimore Symphony, the St. Louis MUNY, The Shakespeare Theater (DC), Philadelphia Theater Company, Sacramento Music Circus, the Old Globe, Fords Theater. Telly has appeared on television including on GLEE (as Wes of the Dalton Academy Warblers) and LAW AND ORDER: CRIMINAL INTENT. In 2013, Telly started TELLY LEUNG PRODUCTIONS and began his career as a producer. In 2013, Telly joined the faculty at NYU’s NEW STUDIO ON BROADWAY as an adjunct professor.
President & CEO of Playhouse Square
Returning for her second year, as President and Chief Executive Officer of Playhouse Square, Gina Vernaci is responsible for all operations of the not-for-profit performing arts center, including more than 1,000 annual performances with gross sales of $48 million, and supervising a staff of 206 and volunteer corps of 2000. Vernaci arrived at Playhouse Square as an intern in 1984 and quickly became an integral part of the movement to save the theater district. As Playhouse Square grew, she assumed responsibility for Programming, where she streamlined operations and instituted a Department of Education. Promotions followed swiftly in the ensuing two decades: she was named Vice President of Theatricals, then Senior Vice President of Operations, then Executive Producer; building a portfolio based on strategic programming initiatives while directing the artistic and business management of all productions. With a Master’s degree in Urban Studies from Cleveland State University, Vernaci understands what it takes to make a city thrive, and has led initiatives to position Playhouse Square as the region’s premier cultural and entertainment destination and the country’s largest performing arts center outside of New York. She secured and built a Broadway series at the University of Akron and continues to champion programming collaborations with libraries, colleges, resident companies and area non-profit theaters. Vernaci is Road Vice Chair of the Broadway League and sits on the League’s Board of Governors, Executive and Legislative Committees. She was Co-Chair of the 2016 National Spring Conference and has received the award for “Outstanding Achievement in Presenter Management.” She is past president and a member of the Investment Committee for the Independent Presenters Network and is the designer of a unified booking agreement for the Broadway industry. Vernaci is held in high esteem by her national and international colleagues, with her extensive knowledge and passionate drive for the industry.