Arerevure Lindsey could feel her heart pounding when she took the stage at Lindenwood University this month.
It was Round 1 of the biggest teen talent show in the region.
"It was just a rush," said Arerevure, 18, of Cahokia. "I don't think I was really nervous. I had prayed about it so many times."
Whatever Arerevure did, it worked. Judges named her one of 37 semi-finalists in the St. Louis Teen Talent Competition, which started with 107 acts. She sang the Idina Menzel song "I Stand."
The second round will take place March 1 at St. Louis Community College at Forest Park. Judges will narrow the field to 12 finalists for the last round April 4 at the Fox Theatre.
The chance to perform at the iconic Fox, which seats more than 4,000 people, is a huge motivator for semi-finalist Kayla Thompson, 16, of Red Bud.
"It's always been a childhood dream of mine," she said. "I've been to a lot of shows there. I would love to perform on the same stage as some of my favorite actors."
Kayla is singing Jeff Buckley's version of "Hallelujah" in the contest. Semi-finalist Jada Wright, 15, of Edwardsville, went with Adele's "Rumor Has It."
All the teens got advice and encouragement from showbiz experts after performances at Lindenwood Feb. 1-2.
"They basically told (Jada), 'You're on your way. You're on your way to stardom,'" said her mother, Christy Scott, 38. "She was just ecstatic. She was trying to be professional, but she was about to come out of her skin. She was so excited."
The three other metro-east semi-finalists are Shanette Miller and Tyrise Ellis, a singing and acting team known as "Nettie Nett and Reezy Ree," and vocalist Olivia Bowles, all of Alton.
This is the fourth year for the contest, sponsored by Fox Performing Arts Charitable Foundation. It's open to students in ninth through 12th grades within a 50-mile radius of St. Louis.
Foundation president Mary Strauss came up with the idea. She feels teens in performing arts don't get as much recognition as athletes.
"We've got great, great talent," Mary said. "It's so varied. I love it. We have a young girl who does a hula-hoop circus act. We have a ventriloquist. It's such a wide array of talent."
Arerevure is the daughter of the Rev. Clyde Young, pastor at St. Jude Spiritual Church in East St. Louis, and his wife, Cynthia, choir director.
Arerevure sings with praise team at church and advanced choir at Cahokia High School. Her two sisters also are choir members, and her brother plays drums.
"We have a musical family for real," said Cynthia, 43.
The Youngs are especially proud these days, as Arerevure just got accepted at McKendree University. She will study business on a Show Choir scholarship.
Arerevure enjoys almost all genres of music. She describes it as "powerful."
"Music is a get-away for me," she said. "I could be having the roughest day or be stressing out about school, and music makes me forget about everything."
This is the third year Kayla has been a semi-finalist in the contest. She sang Selena Gomez's "Who Says" the first year and Justin Bieber's "As Long as You Love Me" the second.
Kayla picked "Hallelujah" this year because she can visualize herself singing it on the Fox stage.
"I kind of made it my own," she said. "I changed some of the notes, and I do it in the style of Alexandra Burke. It's not the classic version. It's a little faster."
Kayla is one of Brian and Nicole Hanger's six children. Mom calls her a "natural" now that she's coming out of her shell.
Only recently did Kayla began performing in public, mainly with worship team at Hope Christian Church in Columbia.
"She really doesn't like to sing in front of family," said Nicole, 36. "The first time I ever heard her sing was up on the stage (at the 2012 talent show). It brought tears to my eyes."
Jada's vocal skills impressed this year's judges, who didn't know she had been seriously ill most of her life.
Gallbladder problems led doctors to predict she would die as a toddler. Chronic pancreatitis and a thyroid condition also have taken their toll.
"When you see (Jada) singing, you would never know she has been sick," Christy said. "She always has a smile on her face. Always. Even on rough days, when she can hardly walk, she's smiling."
Christy and her husband, Nate, also have two other children. Jada sings with Edwardsville High School choir and Gateway Family Church youth band.
Adele is her favorite pop artist. Jada sang her hit "Rolling in the Deep" for a sixth-grade talent show.
"I love (Adele) so much," she said. "I like that she's not the skinniest person, but she's not changing for anyone. She's just herself."
Strauss encourages the public to show up for the contest's final round on April 4. Tickets are required, but admission is free.
Beyond the chance to perform at the Fox, contestants receive scholarships and other prizes.
"It's such an uplifting experience for me to see these kids in high school get up on the Fox stage and do their thing," Strauss said. "You know, when they are 80 years old, they are still going to be talking about this. It's going to be one of the highlights of their lives."
At a glance
What: St. Louis Teen Talent Competition final round
Where: Fox Theatre, 527 N. Grand Blvd., St. Louis
When: 8 p.m. April 4
Tickets: Available after 10 a.m. March 2 at metrotix.com, 314-534-1111 or at the Fox box office (general admission)
Information: Visit foxpacf.org/teen-talent-showcase.aspx or call (314) 367-1573