Kaleigh Bailey, a 10th-grader at Maple Grove High School, said she's heard her choral music teacher sing a few times in class.
She'd never heard Julie Cotter sing quite like she did Monday night in the Arena Club at the Jamestown Savings Bank Ice Arena, though.
''She's awesome,'' Kaleigh said when asked to respond to Mrs. Cotter's vocal skills. ''She's just an awesome person all-around.''
The rest of the audience in the Arena Club agreed with the assessment, as the classically trained vocalist from Fredonia was voted the winner of the second annual Chautauqua's Got Talent competition. Cotter sang ''Batti, Batti,'' an aria from Mozart's ''Don Giovanni,'' in the finals round, much to the delight of the judges and the voting public.
Judge Matt Warren once again told Cotter that she was bringing world-class talent to the stage of the Arena Club with her vocal stylings, a sentiment that was agreed to by several other judges on the panel.
One piece of constructive criticism - that she connect more with the crowd while she sings - from judge Ian Bishop was met with a chorus of boos from the audience.
Cotter, who was a semifinalist in the 2010 Chautauqua Lake Idol competition, said that this event suited her better as a performer because she was able to stick to her specific talent - operatic singing - rather than attempt to be a pop singer.
''My students were all like, 'You have to audition for (Idol),' but I kept telling them that I am a classical singer,'' said Cotter, who studied music at the State University at Fredonia. ''So when I saw Chautauqua's Got Talent, where you can do whatever you want, I thought it was perfect. This was my venue to show I can sing.''
Cotter edged out four other finalists on Monday night to win the event. Hank Elling, a singer and instrumentalist from Forestville; Joy Fanale, a singer from Silver Creek; Amanda and James, an acoustic duo from Jamestown; and Studio Dance Crew, a dance troupe from Jamestown, were the runners-up.
While the judges counted the audience's votes during the evening's second act, special performances took to the stage. Each of the finalists had the chance to entertain the crowd one more time, with Cotter singing a duet along with one of her students - ninth-grader Amie Adams - and Fanale singing one with her daughter, Samantha Marks, who had been eliminated from the competition last week.
Shannon Nixon, the winner of the first Chautauqua's Got Talent competition, also performed, singing ''The Girl in 14G'' - the song that sealed the title for her in last year's finale.
Fanale said that being a part of the competition was a lot of fun and a wonderful experience for both her and her daughter, as well as the rest of her family, which includes younger children Taylor, 7, and Dominic, 3.
''It ended up being a great family thing, because my daughter got involved and my kids can't always see me on the weekends singing out,'' said Fanale, who performs with the band American Honey. ''We've made some great new friends, and been introduced to some new people in the business, which is really nice. It's just a great treat.''
Angelo Giuffre, the event's host, said that he was happy to see the audience vote Cotter the winner, proving that opera has a place in Chautauqua County. At the same time, he said, the other four acts were all worthy of being named champion as well.
''I'm really excited for her that she gets to now take this and bring it to the next level,'' Giuffre said. ''But I would have been happy to see any one of the contestants win tonight. I'm on a cloud right now, it was such a great night. I'm already looking forward to next year.''
Cotter said that all of the performers in the competition were very talented and that she was honored the audience considered her the best.
''They're all different styles, so it's hard to judge,'' she said. ''There was true talent up here with the five contestants, and I think everyone did a really great job.''
As winner of the second annual Chautauqua's Got Talent event, Cotter took home a prize package that included a press kit valued at $2,000, consisting of a promotional DVD and professional photos from Joel Marsh Productions, a media bio and news release from marketing consultant Jason Sample, and a website provided by thebizroom.com. She also won a $300 cash prize, provided in part by Lutheran Social Services, the Downtown Jamestown Development Corporation and www.59lucylane.com.
Cotter said hearing her name called as the winner felt great, and now she looks forward to further marketing her singing talent.
''It's nice to know that there's a venue where opera can be respected,'' Cotter said. ''I've always wanted to get a website out there, to be able to sing at weddings and things like that, so now I'm hoping to get that started.''