After a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, The Garden of Dreams Foundation returned its annual Garden of Dreams Talent Show this year.
The 2022 event marked the 14th iteration of the talent show; more than 100 young people from the tri-state area took the stage at Radio City Music Hall to showcase a variety of talents on April 13.
The event, “Beyond a Dream,” featured 24 acts including vocal performances of both original and beloved songs from pop to Broadway, dance numbers, instrumental performances, comedic monologues, rappers and more.
The Foundation focuses on young people facing illness or financial challenges, as well as children of uniformed personnel who have been lost or injured while serving. Since its inception in 2006, the Garden of Dreams Foundation has impacted more than 400,000 young people and their families.
Among those who participated was Bianca Perez of the Gun Hill section of the Bronx. Perez, who has been acting and singing she was 8. Perez, now 20, played the ukulele and sang “Timeless,” an original piece that she said brings her to a place of euphoria.
“When I found out I was selected (for the talent show) I didn’t believe it,” she told the Bronx Times.
Perez fell in love with acting and singing as a child and always envisioned big things for herself. While Perez grew up listening to salsa and reggae at home, she was the only one in her family with a passion for music. She would sing along to almost every song on the radio while rhythms and beats often flowed through her, she said.
She joined the choir in elementary school, but while in high school — at St. Catharine Academy, an all-girls high school in the Williamsbridge section — a friend encouraged her to try theater.
Perez was cast in “Hairspray” and quickly fell in love with the stage.
“Once I did the first show, I wanted to do it as a profession,” she said. “After every rehearsal I feel I became alive.”
Perez had to juggle school, choir, theater and also kickboxing but somehow managed to spend time with family and friends. Needless to say, life was hectic.
But after struggling to make tuition payments at Manhattan College and care for her sister who was enduring kidney failure and seeking an organ donor, which she ultimately found, Perez left school after a year.
She continued to pursue her dreams of becoming a star, however. She takes acting and vocal classes, is in a funk pop band and participates in the Open Hydrant Theater Company in Hunts Point.
Shuttered at home for two years of the pandemic gave her time to focus on her music and acting. With the guidance of her acting coaches Luis Cardenas and Sarah Rosenberg, Perez says she’s now ready to turn heads and make a name for herself.
The Garden of Dreams Talent Show was a steppingstone in the right direction, she said. A friend of hers told Perez about the program and suggested she try out.
“I still didn’t believe it until we had that first rehearsal,” she said.
With a multifaceted repertoire and aspirations of stardom, Perez plays the guitar, piano, ukulele and sings. Her band has already performed throughout the tri-state area, yet being part of the Garden of Dreams Talent Show helped her realize she is on the right path.
“I personally have a lot of goals,” Perez said. “For a long time, I was like I’m going to be on Broadway. I want to be doing what I love.”
Reach Jason Cohen at firstname.lastname@example.org or (646) 899-8058. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes