LEWISTON — At 9 a.m. sharp, 17-year-old Trevor Laliberte walked onto the empty stage in a nearly empty room with his acoustic guitar and burst into an original song called “Landmine.”

Moody. Loud. Unapologetic. Good.

Really good.

“I’m finding my life buried beneath the guilt and feeling like I didn’t try …”

Three minutes later, a round of applause from six judges. The day’s first audition was in the books.

The Maine’s Got Talent show held an open audition on Saturday for its fifth annual event, the largest fundraiser of the year for Sandcastle Clinical & Educational Services.

Last year, 300 people turned out to watch 10 finalists vying for cash prizes and bragging rights. The job of the judges downstairs at the Dolard and Priscilla Gendron Franco Center was trying to decide which 10 this year would land a spot upstairs in the performance hall during the next Maine’s Got Talent show on March 5.

The area’s special talent, if the morning was any measure? Singing.

Singing solo. Singing with a guitar. Singing with a piano.

Singing with a whistling interlude.

“I’m extremely charming and good-looking — I have to tell people that because they don’t get it on their own,” said Ron Bergeron, 50, of Auburn, warming up the judges before launching into Paul Simon’s “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard.”

“I can’t believe how well you whistle!” enthused judge Charlene O’Clair when he was done.

Bergeron has been playing guitar for 20 years after picking it up with a group of friends. He’s been playing professionally for five years and this next week he’ll perform at Fast Breaks, Sea40 and Pedro O’Hara’s.

“It’s music, so I tell people, there are some songs I don’t like to do, but if the worst thing I have to do is play a song I don’t especially like, it’s still better than any job I’ve ever had,” Bergeron said. “I try to be the type of performer where people get involved… that really makes it the best.”

Morgan Foss, 19, of Lewiston played the piano and sang Fiona Apple’s “Shadowboxer.” She’s performed in Maine’s Got Talent the past two years and hasn’t won. Yet.

She’s been singing for five years.

“I would love to be recording and whatnot, kind of have my name out there a little more,” Foss said. “I just enjoy singing and doing it in front of people. It just gives me a sense of accomplishment, I think.”

Mike Cormier plays drums with two metal bands, Forward Momentum Prophecy and Monsters With People Feet, but the 29-year-old from Augusta opted to take the stage for a drum solo.

Heads were bobbing, hands were clapping.

“That was really awesome,” said Stephanie Gelinas, the event organizer and Sandcastle’s executive director. “You really dig it, I can tell.”

Up until five years ago, he had been a bass player. “My band needed a drummer, so I started drumming,” Cormier said.

Nikkita Drake, 24, of Lewiston sang Demi Lovato’s ballad “Warrior,” and came off the stage right into a hug from Gelinas. Drake works as a special educator with preschoolers at Sandcastle.

“I’ve sung since I could talk, (but) I don’t do a lot of shows,” Drake said. “I’m fine up until I get there, then I’m a ball of nerves.”

Matt Fournier ducked out of work early at Argo Marketing so he could audition. 

“Full-time job, full-time music; I’m hardcore,” Fournier joked.

The 33-year-old from Auburn is in two bands, Beyond the Fall, a hard-rock, all-original band, and Doctor Fat Finger, a funk/rock/blues band, but for the audition he performed alone with his guitar, singing Chris Stapleton’s “Tennessee Whiskey.”

He’s been performing since he was 14 and opened Maine’s Got Talent last year.

“(When playing), I kind of black out and I just enjoy it for my own emotional reasons, I guess you could say,” Fournier said. “Even when that’s not there, you still have fun with the crowd.”

Laliberte, a senior at Edward Little High School and Franklin/Merrill Hill School, first tried out for the competition two years ago, when he was a month under the cut-off age of 16.

He’s been playing guitar since age 6.

“I’ve been writing songs, seriously writing songs, since I was 11 or 12,” Laliberte said. “I’ve been recording and putting out music since middle school, either by myself or with bands.”

He doesn’t get nervous anymore. Much.

“(‘Landmine’) in particular actually gives me severe anxiety/adrenaline to perform, so I’m still shaking from it,” he said. “Other than that, I don’t have a lot of nervous moments.” 

Finalists find out early next week whether they made the cut. The hardest part, Gelinas said, is making that decision.

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