March 29, 2006

Greenport Idols Shine Onstage

Millions of Americans who tune in to Fox's "American Idol" each week know they need to phone frantically to vote for their favorites. But what they don't know is that on the North Fork, there's a brand-new crop of Greenport Idol contestants and winners who are set to rival this year's top "American Idol" contenders.

Over 20 students entered the second annual Greenport Idol competition, taking the stage and singing their hearts out for a good cause. The event, sponsored by the Greenport Teachers' Association, raised over $10,000 this year, through tickets sales to over 1000 audience members and an event program with advertising.

The contest was conceived last year by Ron McEvoy, chairman of the social studies department, as an event to honor and memorialize Dr. Dennis Claire, a beloved English teacher who died almost two years ago.

The two-night event featured performances by students on the first night, and songs by alumni and staff on the second.

Four first-place student winners included seniors Kyle Charters, who sang "Collide" by Howie Day, Greg Rubin, who sang "Change is Gonna Come" by Sam Cook, Karre Brown, who sang "Always and Forever" by Luther Vandross, and Rob Howard, who sang "Billie Jean" by Michael Jackson.

"He didn't just sing, he performed," said Greenport Schools Superintendent Charles Kozora of Howard. ""He was moonwalking and dancing up a storm."

Howard's performance was the highlight of the evening for many, including Charters, who thought the Michael Jackson costume, complete with shiny black shoes, white socks, makeup, and wig was "so funny."

Unlike the television series, Greenport Idol is a warm and supportive event, with kinder, gentler judges including alumni and faculty Ev Corwin, Ali Snabon, Greenport Trustee Val Shelby, and Jezebel Cuadrado, who held up numbers to rate the contestants.

"There's no Simon!" said Brown.

"The audience is so intelligent and supportive," said McEvoy, adding that they clapped to support contestants who were shy onstage. "It's heartwarming to see."

Saturday night's show included performances by alumni and teachers. In first place were teacher Ali Snabon, who sang "Black Velvet," and alumni basketball coach Ev Corwin, who rocked out with Bruce Springsteen's "City of Ruins."

"I knew he could shoot hoops, but I didn't know he could sing," joked Kozora.

Students who performed gain more than just a shot at the plaques awarded to winners. The best part, said McEvoy, is to see students who have had no formal training step onstage and take a risk. "It's a real breakthough" for some, he said, adding that there has been a direct reflection in students' confidence and improved academic standing.

Also featured was musical accompaniment by students Emily Bredeneyer, Christian Schott, and Rubin. The DJ for the event was Tom Eamiani.

The event would have thrilled Dr. Claire, with his twinkling eyes and ready grin, said McEvoy. "He was always for the underdog. His motto was 'Sing, write, create.' We write and create all week. This weekend was a celebration of life, honoring Dr. Claire with song. It was a joyful occasion."

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