Kean Quest audience falls for Pine-Richland freshman

Deborah Deasy
| Wednesday, April 23, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Jake Pederson, a freshman at Pine-Richland High School, played the piano and sang “All of Me” by John Legend to recently win the Audience Choice Award during the 2014 Kean Quest Talent Search Finale.

“I'm so glad I just placed,” said Jake, who recently played Ching Ho in “Thoroughly Modern Millie” at Pine-Richland High School.

Before his Kean Quest win, Jake worried about hitting the high notes in his selected song.

“It was really hard to pick a song, because we couldn't find anything that was working with my voice, because it's changing,” said Jake, 15, son of Dan and Susie Pederson of Richland.

Jake said his parents' singing around the house spawned his own fondness for performing.

“They brought me to where I am,” said Jake, who has a twin brother — Luke, who prefers sports to singing — and a younger brother, Dan, 8.

“We're serenaded quite a bit — like every day,” Susie Pederson said about Jake's penchant for practice.

To earn the Audience Choice Award, Jake received the most votes for best performer from people who attended the Kean Quest Talent Search's final round of competition April 11 at the Kean Theatre in Richland.

Twenty-nine singers, ages 18 and younger, competed in the finals before an audience of about 350.

Judges named Gabby Barrett, an eighth-grader at St. Teresa of Avila School in Ross as the top winner after she sang “Mercy.”

Maura Yates, a senior at North Allegheny Senior High School, won the fourth annual Jackie Evancho Award for competing with determination for two or more years in the Kean Quest Talent Search. Maura played the guitar and sang Taylor Swift's “Picture to Burn.”

Jackie, now an international recording artist, twice competed and earned runner-up honors in the Kean competition, which benefits the St. Barnabas Health System.

As the Audience Choice Winner, Jake received a recording session at Audible Images in Ross Township, plus publicity photos.

To fortify his vocal control for the finals, Jake avoided soft drinks for a week and then celebrated his victory by downing some Coca-Cola.

“He deserves this so much because he works hard,” said Christie Jeter of Pine, Jake's vocal and piano coach.

“He has natural ability, but he also has an excellent work ethic,” Jeter said.

Mindful of his unstable voice, Jeter helped Jake pick the songs he performed during three rounds of competition during the 20014 Kean Quest Talent Search: “When I Was Your Man” by Bruno Mars; “To Make You Feel My Love” by Bob Dylan; and “All of Me” by John Legend.

“We had to be careful about the range,” Jeter said. “He used to be able to trust his voice to do anything.”

Jeter now tells Jake to nurture his changing voice and “hold its hand.”

“When you're trying to sing a high note, you need more air,” Jeter said. “You need breath support.”

One also needs plenty of sleep, water and good nutrition, said Jeter, who encouraged Jake's abstinence from soft drinks before the 2014 Kean Quest Talent Search finals.

“I think caffeine is bad for the voice because it dries it out,” Jeter said. “Soda is bad because of the gas bubbles. It could cause you to burp during the song.”

Deborah Deasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6369 or

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