Senior Laura Chess shows off her musical ability for a panel of judges

Do I have the talent to sing in UR Idol, and, more importantly, do I have the thick skin to take the criticisms from the judges? This question should be on the minds of all who consider performing in UR Idol.

This year marks the ninth annual UR Idol contest, a singing competition akin to “American Idol” that judges students based on their singing talent, and it was organized by the Residential Advisors of Susan B. Anthony Halls. The characteristics of each of judge are different. Comparing the UR Idol judges to “American Idol” judges — before two-thirds of them “upgraded” to “The X Factor” — one notices certain similarities.

There was a Paula Abdul and her name was Jessica Ecock, assistant director for student conflict management. She was full of lovely things to say about the performers, and her assertions about the students were genuine and funny. Compared to the other two judges, Jessica’s comments were as pure as Bambi’s smile. The other two judges were the Dean of Students Matthew Burns and Josef Hanson, manager of music performance programs, taking the place of Simon Cowell.

These last two judges developed a comedic rapport with themselves and the audience, in which they harshly criticized the contestants. In years past the audience seemed to enjoy the light-hearted ribbing of the helpless contestants on stage, but this year they responded with shock and sympathy for their fellow students.

Hanson noted that “the crowd didn’t enjoy the zingers this year [and were] not as enthusiastic.” One of his quips directed to junior Alex Murray, a contestant who sang “Fire” by Augustana, was that “[Murray’s] singing was as useful as a one-legged man in an ass-kicking competition.”

Burns was relentless in his comments. Most of the performers got critical reviews.

“We keep inviting Dean Burns back … because he is a crowd favorite,” senior Chris Driscoll, an RA who participated in the event, said.

“The crowd wasn’t digging the jokes,” sophomore Dan Slavin, another RA said. “We can’t have two Simon Cowells.”

Because many of the contestants’ fans and friends were in the audience, the good-natured criticisms were not perceived as funny as in previous years. What the audience did enjoy were the 10 performances.

After each contestant finished their act, several of which included instruments, original lyrics or both, a resounding cheer came from the crowd. Freshman Nazeerah Parker, who performed “Turning Tables” by Adele, claimed she was full of nervous energy before the performance.

“My whole body was shaking and I had to make sure it didn’t come out in my voice,” she said. The other contestants were surely feeling the pressure as well.

Some were not feeling as much pressure as other performers because several had formal training at the Eastman School of Music, such as sophomore Dan Gorman, who receives voice lessons. Others, who did not have formal training, sounded beautiful even without lessons, like junior Ivette Miranda, who sang “1+1” by Beyoncé.

The competition concluded with Josef Hanson stating he “admires all of [the contestants] and they all did a good job.” In the end, sophomore Patrick Shirley, a crowd and judge favorite, won with “Bits,” an original composition. More than one of the judges exclaimed that they would buy his song from the iTunes Music Store.

Senior Laura Chess received a well-deserved second place with her rendition of “Uncharted” by Sara Bareilles.

No one can compete with the hosts’ injection of puns and jokes. The RAs opened and closed the show with a great amount of fun with what they were doing. The RAs even had the contestants write a short description about themselves, a crowd favorite being Andy Brink’s, of Brother Bear, secret life as Aladdin.

This UR event had a good turn out to showcase the talented students of the school. If Dean Burns is here to critique contestants and they are not sensitive about their talents, UR Idol will go on.



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