Last semester, Eastman students gathered around televisions in their respective lounges on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings to watch Fox’s “American Idol.”

“A bunch of us would get together almost every week to see who sang well, who sang poorly, and who was going to get voted to the next round,” junior Flippy White said.

Because of “American Idol’s” popularity with students, it only seemed natural that an “Eastman Idol” pageant would be a great way to raise money for charity.

On Friday, Sept. 12, Eastman students and other members of the UR community gathered in Kilbourn Hall for the “Eastman Idol” competition.

Tickets were $3, and proceeds went to AIDS Rochester, an organization whose mission, according to their Web site, is to “lead a compassionate community effort within the Finger Lakes region, providing programs and services including education, prevention, advocacy and non-medical services to those infected with and affected by HIV/AIDS.”

As the evening’s emcee, Paul Burgett, Vice President and General Secretary of the University, began the evening by informing students about AIDS Rochester, as well as mentioning facts about AIDS and HIV. Though the pageant began with a serious tone, the fun started as soon as the first event, the evening and club wear competition began. Eight female and eight male students modeled clothing, while audience members cheered and applauded for their favorite competitors.

Pageant finalist and junior Julia Siciliano said, “People came for a certain extent to see cute outfits. I hope they’re aware [this event] is for a good cause.”

For the second half, the judges – Director of Eastman Housing Linda Muise, Dean of the Eastman School of Music James Undercofler and Eastman Dean of Students Phyllis Wade – asked the contestants questions like, “If you could be any Sesame Street character, who would you be?”

Answers ranged from the stupid to the hilarious. When asked what kind of piercing he would be, contestant and junior Zach Wadsworth said, “I would like to be a navel piercing, because I like to be under people’s shirts.”

As each contestant answered his or her question, Muise – who played the part of Simone, Eastman’s answer to Simon Cowel – jokingly teased the contestants. During the club wear portion, she questioned one contestant’s bikini top, saying, “Exactly what kind of club are you dressed for?”

Students cheered for their favorite contestants, but the judges made the final decision as to who would move forward to the next round of the competition.

In the next round, contestants were narrowed to eight people – four female and four male contestants.

The tone of the pageant changed later on as the finalists were asked more serious questions, including, “Why are you participating in this contest?” and “How would you like to see the money earned tonight used?”

When asked why he decided to enter the pageant, junior Jared Schonig said, “I’m doing it for the good of AIDS Rochester.”

In the same round, contestants seemed to express interest in raising money for other charities, such as those relating to alcoholism, and youth-related cancer programs.

At the end of the evening, freshman Conor Canavan and sophomore Liza Malamut were crowned Eastman’s Idols. Both won by overwhelming applause from the audience members.

“I was nervous at first, but it is for a good cause, and I had a good time,” Malamut said.

“I was not going to do it, but it was for AIDS, and I had a great time,” agreed Canavan.

Similar sentiments were echoed by the other contestants.

When the night was over, about $500 had been raised for AIDS Rochester. Attendees and participants of the pageant agreed that the event was a success and more attempts to raise money for charity would be organized in the future.

Sophomore Zach Wilder said that the pageant was “great and that everyone had a blast.”

Gorode can be reached at

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