Star Search 2023

1. Chaz Schroeder (a.k.a. Pickle Chaz)

words by Teresa Spencer

At the age of 8, Chaz Schroeder (a.k.a. Pickle Chaz) saw rapper Vanilla Ice in concert at Wild Adventures. And that’s where it all began. 

“I thought that was the coolest thing in the world, and I wanted to be just like that. Looking at the crowds cheering, that’s what I wanted,” Schroeder recalled. In fact, he started his musical journey singing Vanillia Ice’s smash hit “Ice Ice Baby” at karaoke which then evolved to participating in singing competitions. It wasn’t long before he began writing his own songs to perform.

“The love of music is what inspires me. I am inspired by the beats I hear, and I start to write music to go with the beats,” said Schroeder, who added another title to add to his collection as winner of the Clay County Fair Star Search junior division.

 As one of the only contestants in the junior division who wrote his own lyrics and music for the competition, Schroeder, now a pre-teen, said his song “Face Your Fears” came out of his own experience (and a friend’s) being bullied and knowing he had to stand up to the bully and face his own fears. After writing the song, he felt he did just that and even felt empowered as a result, saying he wanted to create a song to inspire others to “not only stand up against bullies but to face any fears you may have.”

 Schroeder plans to release his second single “Keep Your Head Up” in the coming months with many more songs to follow. “I love to create and inspire people through my music,” he said, “and one day I hope to be doing world tours.”

He also attributes his early music career successes to the support and love he receives from his parents and grandparents. He truly believes that family is everything, and he is full of gratitude.

You can catch Pickle Chaz at upcoming events in Jacksonville, as well as South Florida, and follow him on Facebook at “Pickle Chaz.” 


2. Khloe Grace 

Words by Carmen Macri 

Khloe Grace’s love for singing dates back to her earliest memories. She draws inspiration from the many talented women in the realm of country music. This influence is vividly evident in the song she chose to perform for Clay County Fair’s Star Search contest — “Anyway” by Martina McBride. Grace says she always felt inspired by McBride because of her powerful voice and meaningful lyrics.

“She is such a powerhouse singer,” Grace explained. “[‘Anyway’] inspired me because no matter what people think or what comes your way, you have to believe in yourself. If you have dreams, don’t let anything hold you back. Just do it anyway.”

And while Grace sang a beautiful cover for the competition, she’s also been creating music of her own. She even mentioned having a debut single coming out very soon with more to follow. Considering she’s already opened for several Nashville recording artists, she is well on her way to being a star herself, which is especially impressive since Grace is only 13 years old! 

Not only does she have a mesmerizing voice, but her choice of outfit for the contest perfectly complemented her performing style. Striding onto the stage in a pair of cowboy boots with a beaming smile, she effortlessly embodied the essence of country music.

Grace’s journey didn’t end at the competition either; she will be singing the national anthem for the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp on July 29 and has auditions for the Suwanee River Jam coming up. There is no doubt in my mind that she’s a shoo-in to land a spot.   

3.Harper Chipoletti

Words by Amiyah Golden

 Harper Chipoletti rang out an astounding rendition of “Over the Rainbow,” from the 1939 classic, The Wizard of Oz at the Clay County Fair Star Search competition.

 Harper grew up constantly singing around the house. Her mom recounts car ride performances with Chipoletti’s rendition of the hit song, “Let it Go” from the movie Frozen. As time went on, she knew she wanted to take her talents beyond the confines of the family car.  

 We explored Chipoletti’s musical backings and interests. Her favorite genre reigning as pop but also, acknowledging her love for country music. With one of her biggest inspirations, singer Taylor Swift who is a real-life example of being able to bridge between the two respective genres. 

 Harper has competed in a few other contests but would love to do the Star Search competition again in the future if the opportunity presents itself.  She will be participating in the upcoming First Coast Future Stars competition that will be held at Mudville Grille on July 22.

 With her aim to become multi-faceted in her talents, Chipoletti excitedly noted that she would be starting theater camp soon. With big hopes of being on Broadway one day, as a lead actress in either Wicked or Aladdin, this will allow the young star to perfect her craft.

 Chipoletti currently resides in Middleburg, Florida with a very supportive family.

“We want her to do what makes her happy.”  Chipoletti’s mom stated.

 I can’t wait to see “One Night Only with Harper Chipoletti” in a marquee on Broadway Street one day. If you want to keep up with the rising star, you can check out her voice coach’s YouTube channel, “missmarieskids1.”

1.Manny Torres

Words by Su Ertekin-Taner

“You got two options. You’re either going to go great or piss your pants. Your choice, buddy. And I didn’t piss myself, so I’m good,” Costa Rican native and Clay County Star Search adult division winner Manuel Torres said. “I guess I kind of won. I don’t know,” the singer added. 

Aided by his constant practicing, performance personality and some “relaxing” vices (honey candy and cigarettes), Torres was far from incontinent and even exceeded the greatness that he hoped for; his onstage experience was exciting, surprising even.

Manuel Torres, who began his musical affinity at age 14/15, approached his performance with the desire to provide this “factor of surprise.” When the 24-year-old walked on stage in a suit with his signature sunglasses and started some quirky conversation with the audience, the desired surprise factor was in full effect.

Torres explained his inclination for conversation: “Whenever you get on stage, it’s always going to be awkward if you don’t say something, but if you go up there and you’re like, ‘How y’all doing? You all want some free candy? Cigarettes? You want to get a beer after this?’ You know? That makes people laugh and you can connect with the audience.” 

He later reasoned, “Everybody’s all structured as to how they’re supposed to act outside of their houses, in the external world and what I like to do is [say] ‘you can be free’ around me at least, that’s fine, but a lot of people perceive me as weird, but I’d like to say, I’m just ready to go.” 

Of course, the singer’s choice of song, Frank Sinatra’s “The Way You Look Tonight,” contributed equally to the factor of surprise for the Gen-Z-er. Independent of this factor, the singer’s performance of the Sinatra song was heartfelt, smooth, and electric. The self-proclaimed old soul picked this classic for his first gig because he knew the words by heart. “I’m in love with music from the past,” Torres added. 

Beyond Sinatra, much of Torres’ favorite music and musical inspirations come from the past: Oasis, The Beatles (together and individually), Jeff Lynne of ELO and Bob Dylan all shape Torres’ own music along with modern bands like Imagine Dragons. Even Torres’ stage name, William Torres, is influenced by Boomer and Gen-X greats like singer William John Paul Gallagher (a.k.a. Liam Gallagher), actor Robin Williams, and musician William Bruce Rose Jr. (a.k.a. Axl Rose).

The history lover has three (very new) singles: “When You’re Leaving Me,” “Summer Rain” and “An Angel That’s Been and Gone” — all born from brief guitar jam sessions which are sent to his producer in Costa Rica and all with his signature rock n’ roll flavor. 

With his present and upcoming music, William Torres hopes to financially help his family, who recently moved from Costa Rica to Jacksonville. “I used to say that I didn’t want to be famous ’cause I didn’t really care about it. I still don’t, but I just kind of want to help my family out and push through with bills and having a place to live,” he said.

Making music today remains a motivator for Torres, but the musician also sees a future with his melodies. While Torres hopes his music will top the charts and help him sign with Parlophone Records, he desires a connection with his audience above all else, the same sort of connection Torres established for his Clay County Fair Star Search performance. “My favorite part of the performance is going to be when all the people in the audience know my lyrics, and they’re singing it back to me ’cause that means I made an impact on them. Can you imagine someone memorizing something you write? You’ve done it! That’s it! … That’s my goal in life. I’d rather die than not make it,” he said.

William Torres may indeed sign with Parlophone Records. “I would make them billionaires, probably,” quipped the self-taught singer-guitarist-harmonica player (“you never know when you’re going to end up in jail and need a harmonica”). He might sell out concerts and financially free his family from work. We don’t know yet.

What we do know: William (Manny) Torres is meant for music. He knows so. “I always tell myself and all the people I meet: This is what I’m here for. I don’t know anything else. I can’t be in an office. I can’t imagine myself as an engineer, so the thing that I was put here to do on earth is write songs and give them to the beautiful people.”

Find William Torres on Instagram and TikTok at @williamtorresmusic. His music is available on all streaming platforms.

2.Ty Love

Words by Carson Rich

Ty Love is a local singer from Callahan who is eager to put his name on the map. Growing up listening to country and alternative music inspired him, and now he is looking to take his talent to the next level. When he was young, his father was friends with a security guard for the Zac Brown Band, which led to him meeting the members of the band and growing his love for music even more. From then on he began taking requests for anything from concerts to funerals. His family members are his biggest fans, and they support him through it all.

Love is always looking for new ways to grab people’s attention. Even during his interview with “Folio,” he pulled out his guitar and started ripping it, playing both old and new country ballads, like “Something in the Orange” by Zach Bryan, with his mother standing on the side admiring his powerhouse of a voice. At the Clay County Fair Star Search competition, he performed his own version of “Hurricane” by Band of Heathens. He is looking to play at the Suwannee River Jam later this year and, he said, is pretty much open to doing whatever gigs come his way. Ultimately, Love hopes to become big as a singer-songwriter. 

3.Leigha Colson 

Words by Matthew Schneider

Leigha Colson, an extremely talented musician and singer, wowed the crowd with her phenomenal performance in the 2023 Star Search contest at the Clay County Fair. Colson was awarded third place in the adult division after singing “Tennessee Whiskey” with her own unique twist. Her goosebump-provoking vocals were accompanied by acoustic guitar, creating a perfect synergy between the two.

When I spoke with Colson, she explained that singing just comes naturally to her. She grew up in a small church where singing was common and played an important role in their lives. Colson is also a well-versed musician who has been playing the guitar since fifth grade. Additionally, she knows how to play the electric guitar, bass guitar, ukulele, clarinet and is currently learning to play the piano. 

Colson mentioned that country music had always played a large role in her life. “I grew up listening to country music and that [“Tennessee Whiskey”] was just one song that I hope I can sing to my future husband and give it meaning,” Colson said.

The inspiration behind Colson’s music can be credited to her family and a handful of her favorite music artists, including Melvin Knight, Clark Beckham, Amy Winehouse, Luke Combs and most importantly, her oldest niece Myla and the made-up songs she likes to sing.

Colson stated that she never expected to place in the top three, when going into this contest, because the competition was tough and very talented. “My competition was very hard, more specifically, competing against one of my friends,” she added.

Just like many other performers, Colson confirmed that she gets stage fright from time to time. To manage her nerves on stage, she tries not to think about what she’s doing until her actual performance. If she starts to feel nervous during her performance, she closes her eyes and pictures herself singing in front of a crowd even larger than the one present. By doing so, the actual crowd in front of her seems a lot less intimidating when she opens her eyes again. Once Colson’s nerves begin to settle and her inner musical inclinations grab the reins, she enjoys gazing out at the crowd in front of her  and taking in the moment.

Colson said she loves singing and performing, but as of now, it is just a hobby that she enjoys doing in her pastime.

“My dream is to be a pediatric anesthesiologist, and if I can sing my way into that, then I will,” she continued.

Colson is currently working on a few original, unfinished songs that she plans to perfect and release through various music streaming platforms sometime in the future. Follow her for  updates on Instagram at  @everyone_loves_leelee and @btw_leigha.sings.