Rising stars compete in Regional Idol competition
Friday, January 18, 2013
The house lights dimmed and spotlights illuminated the stage. The singers were introduced one after another to showcase their vocal skills at the second annual Regional Idol Scholarship Competition, an event presented by the Bedford Rotary Club.
On Saturday, Jan. 12, the show’s emcee, Natalie St. Cyr, a former music teacher and winner of several vocal awards, introduced in turn one dozen of the area’s high-school vocalists. The students performed for a chance to win a share of a $2,000 scholarship.
Performers included Katrina “Kat” Feraco, of Milford High School; Kaylie Curtis, of Manchester Memorial High School; Kristopher Schooner, of Manchester Memorial High School; Emma Benson, of Bedford High School; Jordan Levesque, of Trinity High School; Margaret Windler, of Trinity High School; Katie Joy, of Exeter High School; Connor Schmitt, of Bedford High School; Nakahla Jennings, of National Connections Academy Online; April Reidy, of Pelham High School; Emilee Thompson, of Trinity High School and Miranda Piscopo, of Manchester West High School.
The first-place winner was Piscopo, 17, whose jazz-scat song was a hit with the audience and a panel of three judges: Elizabeth Thibault Beaton, Brian Coombes and Seabright McCabe – all professionals in a myriad of musically related fields.
Piscopo, a performer in her school’s Chamber Choir, Jazz Combo and Jazz Band, and tenor saxophone player, won $1,000 in scholarship funds and an opportunity to sing the national anthem on July 25, at the opening of the Fisher Cats game in Manchester. Her rendition of “Fever,” a song from the mid-1950s capped the win.
“I was definitely shocked,” Piscopo said of the honor. “My jaw dropped.”
The second-place prize went to Benson, 16, who went home with $500. She has participated in musical theater since age of 11 and plans on a career in the field. She performed “Breathe,” by Kooman and Dimond, and “Don’t Forget Me,” from the TV musical series, “Smash.”
The third-place winner was Jennings, a resident of Concord who considers Manchester’s Palace Theatre her home stage. She has performed there in “Pochahontas,” “Mulan,” the
“Aristocats” and other shows. She took home $300 and won audience appreciation with her renditions of “Chain of Fools,” by Aretha Franklin and “Here to Stay,” by Christina Aguilera.
The fourth-place winner of $200 in scholarship money was Schmitt, 18, an avid member of Bedford High School’s FIRST Robotics team and a performer who has appeared in two of the school’s recent theatrical productions, “Guys and Dolls,” and “Into the Woods.” Schmitt won by singing “Hallelujah,” by Leonard Cohen, and “Soul Man,” by the Blues Brothers.
Show organizer and Bedford Rotarian Ed Bordeleau marvelled at the high level of talent that this year’s competition brought to the audience. He said he strived to promote an authentic experience for the performers by securing professional lighting and sound system. He had assistance from fellow Rotarians who volunteered their time backstage and elsewhere, he said. The Amethyst Party Band, in which Bordeleau plays bass, was onstage backing each of the 12 performers.
Bordeleau played his bass guitar. His sister, Jan Bordeleau, played keyboards, Don Turcotte played drums, James Fothergill played guitar and David Milazzo on saxophone. A special guest on keyboards was local music-maker Paul Bordeleau, celebrating his 89th birthday.
Ed Bordeleau said the competition is the Bedford Rotary Club’s way of supporting local culture. He said he believes in giving talented students the chance to work with professional musicians.
“We selected the best local talent, worked them hard, and they performed amazingly,” Bordeleau said. “Some of these contestants will undoubtedly move on to successful careers in the music profession.”
Dozens of local businesses and individuals backed the show by advertising in a 36-page program. Jokers Bar & Bistro, a South Willow Street restaurant, comedy club, music venue and entertainment complex, was thanked for providing a practice space for the singers.
Bordeleau said sometimes there is too much emphasis on sports in schools, while music and culture is treated as an afterthought.
“Careers in music and the arts are measured in lifetimes, while sports careers are measured in seasons,” Bordeleau said. “If we value arts, we have to encourage our youth to become artists and recognize their accomplishments.“
“This event is more than a competition or talent show,” Bordeleau added. “It’s a means for the Bedford Rotary Club to encourage excellence in music and an appreciation of musical culture.”
Schmitt said he plays music and sings at every opportunity. He and another student studying mandolin, sometimes hold the school doors open, and play their instruments while greeting students.
He recommends students try out for next year’s Regional Idol.
“If you enjoy singing, go for it,” said Schmitt. “I started taking vocal lessons last year. My teacher suggested I enter the competition and I did.”
Benson, who also attends Bedford High, concurred with Schmitt’s “go for it” attitude.
She said she was a bit nervous as she waited in the wings, just off stage.
“Once I was on the stage, I was fine,” Benson said. “I’d never performed with a full band before. Everyone was so nice.”