February 07, 2007
Hampton Idol Hopefuls Shine
Who will be the first Hampton Idol?
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That was the burning question on the minds of 32 hopefuls who took the stage on Friday at the Southampton Cultural Center to audition for the first-ever Hampton Idol competition.
American Idol mania might be sweeping the nation as thousands line up for their shot at stardom — but in Southampton, proud parents and friends were clearly rooting for a competition closer to home.
According to Nancy Lynott, director of the Southampton Town Youth Bureau, the idea for the event came from a suggestion from the organization's youth advisory committee. The YAC is comprised of high school students from all areas of the town who work together to plan activities and programs for their peers.
"Part of the job of YAC members is to come up with ideas for things the town can offer kids — things they'll find interesting and attractive, that are positive and constructive," said Lynott. "Hampton Idol was their brainchild."
The excitement was palpable on Friday as teens awaiting their moment onstage talked excitedly, practiced their audition pieces, and called friends and relatives on cell phones to give updates on the tryouts.
The competition was open to vocalists only. Solo performers were able to provide their own recorded background music or could perform with an acoustic guitar or keyboard. Groups of up to four vocalists were permitted, but only with recorded music, no instruments. Each contestant was provided with a CD player, microphone and amplification equipment.
The entrants were required to sign a release stating that they agreed to comply with contest rules, including the stipulation that performance material contains no foul or degrading language.
Aspirants sang their hearts out to a panel of judges, including musician Tony Arfi of Power Play Studios in Westhampton Beach, sponsor of the event, music teachers from area schools, and members of the YAC advisory committee.
Entrants were judged on a scale of 1 to 5 by performance criteria including appearance, vocal ability, tonal quality, pitch, stage presence, eye contact with the audience, personality, choice of song, and overall package.
As each took the stage, young singers packed the room with some powerhouse vocals. For many, Hampton Idol is the realization of a dream that has been years in the making.
Riverhead High School student Peter Cuibulski, who lives in Southampton, sang "Dance With My Father," and spoke later of his deep respect for Vandross, his now-deceased musical idol.
A momentous moment in his life, said Cuibulski, was when, introduced by his aunt, he got to meet Vandross' mother at a Patti Labelle concert and sing a verse of a song to her. "She told me 'I can't bring him back for you but I can introduce you to the woman who created him,'" he remembered.
Southampton students Megan Roughan, Emily Edgar and Nikki Codis sang "Beautiful" by Christina Aguillera as a trio. Roughan said she entered the contest because "it sounded like fun."
Roughan's mom, Laurie, was beaming with pride. "She has a beautiful voice," she said. "I'm so proud. Her bedroom is right above the kitchen and I hear her singing all the time."
Westhampton Beach High School student Anthony Arfi videotaped the contestants and interviewed them; the segments will be shown at the Hampton Idol finals. Taking a page from "American Idol," Westhampton Beach High School student Paul Gagliardotto tried on the Ryan Seacrest role for size.
Lynott said 10 to 15 finalists will be notified by the end of this week. A final performance is tentatively scheduled at Westhampton Beach High School on Friday, April 20 at 8 p.m. but that date not yet been confirmed.
In addition, another audition may be held before the finale; details have not yet been determined.
First place awards will be given to one male and one female performer, with second and third place awards given, too. Winners will receive prizes including studio time at Power Play Studios, gift certificates, and trophies.
Hampton Idol, said Lynott, is a win-win for kids and residents alike. "It gives kids another avenue to showcase their skills," she said, adding that another plus is that the event brings kids from different schools together. "Hampton Idol shows the community that there's [much that's] positive about the kids who live here — the kind of positives that maybe they don't hear about as much."
No matter who takes top honors, Lynott believes all the contestants who showcased their vocal strengths deserve recognition. "They were all really talented," she said. "We were really impressed."