Photos by Megan Hall. Graphic courtesy Alumni Association.

On Sunday, families and friends came to see their loved ones at the ‘Ville Idol Finals in Lyte Auditorium. Lori Burkholder was the host for the event, and with 11 remaining contestants, a $1,000 prize and a $250 prize in each category up for grabs, the stakes were high for the performers.

Judging this event was Kelly West, the radio personality from WARM-FM 103.3, Raymond Antonelli, a director and choreographer with over 40 years of experience in the performing arts, Ric Zimmerman, an international vocalist, director, and conductor, and Deb Lenssen, a singer, violinist, conductor, and MU faculty member.

Starting off the show with a relaxed tone was last year’s ‘Ville Idol Alumni winner, Matthew Hepler, who sang Summer Wind by Frank Sinatra. He set the stage up for performances to come. The crowd was ready to see their favorites, and as the first performer, Leslie Barton, came on stage, many people in the crowd raised cheering signs to show their support for Barton. Leslie sang When the Lights go Down by Faith Hill, and between her voice and facial expressions, the crowd was enthralled with her energy on-stage.

“You always look and sound professional” Ric Zimmerman said of her overall performance.

Kelly West stated “I could feel the power in your voice.”

Following Leslie was Greg Dietz, singing In the Still of the Night by Boyz II Men. The judges commented, saying they “would’ve liked to see more energy, but [he] had a great ear for harmony.” Next was Seth Eck, and then Rose Hughes.

After Hughes’ performance in round two, when she sang I Turn to You by Christina Aguilera, the judges were happy to bring her back for the finals. Unfortunately, Rose’s microphone was off during her performance, and she ended up singing to the audience without any help for projecting her voice.

The judges thought it was very professional of her to continue despite the malfunction, and she received reviews from Ric Zimmerman,

“Very soulful and passionate,” he said.

The fifth contestant in the student category was Kristin Keech, who sang Maybe I Like it This Way.

Deb Lenssen said she “Really had to congratulate her on her intensity.”

Ray Antonelli commented, “You have tremendous talent and I would be honored to direct you.”

Wrapping up the students was sophomore Lindy Keefe, freshman John Scargall, and sophomore Matt (Scoot) Simkins. Antonelli told Scargall, who sang Come What May by Ewan McGregor that he “has such great, raw talent that, with training, could become magnificent.”

On Matt’s performance, the judges agreed that he was a great performer, and that he “definitely had the dance moves”

Moving on to the alumni category, the final three contestants were Abraham Breslin, Jason Genise-Gdula, and Adrienne Howe. Breslin sang T-R-O-U-B-L-E by Travis Tritt, and for the first time in the competition, he showed the judges that he could do more than sing excellently; he could also have a performance that literally got the crowd up and moving. In his song, he encouraged the audience to clap along, stand up and dance.

“It was great that you got the audience involved.” After sitting through eight other acts, appreciation rang throughout the auditorium at a chance to dance along to an energetic song and performer, said Zimmerman

Also stepping it up a notch, Jason Genise-Gdula sang Black Horse and the Cherry Tree by KT Tunstall. Different than his first two performances, he danced around stage and asked the audience to “feel free to do back-up.”

Lastly, Adrienne Howe sang Something to Talk About by Bonnie Raitt. Between walking around with a sexy strut across the stage and an upbeat tempo, Adrienne showed off some dance moves.

“You have a great range in your voice and made easy transitions between pitches,” said Anonelli.

Each contestant then came on stage and sang “judge’s choice of song” for fun. In the words of Lori Burkholder, it was “to enjoy their moment in the spotlight.”

For instance, when Kristen Keech came onstage and sang her original song Proud Mary by Ike and Tina Turner, the other contestants went behind a transparent veil and danced along as “back-up dancers.” Abraham Breslin and Adrienne Howe brought their children up to sing their songs, and as a result the audience gave a collected “Aw.”

Matthew Hepler came out again and sang Fly me to the Moon, also by Frank Sinatra, and Jessica Henry, an aspiring singer and actress currently working in Philadelphia and New York came up and sang If Looks Could Kill by Heart. Finally, Burkholder came onstage to announce the 2008 ‘Ville Idol results. After all the contestants received a Ville Idol tee and a gift bag, and thanking the judges for helping and being there throughout the competition to judge, she announced the winners.

With an audience inspired drum roll, she revealed Adrienne Howe as the alumni runner-up, winner of the $250 prize. When asked what she would do with the money, Howe said, “We just bought a house so we need a lot of stuff, and this money will help with that.”

The winner for the alumni category was Jason Genise-Gdula, He said he would use the $1000 prize money as most alumni would: to pay student loans.”

When asked about his singing “career” he said, “I just like to sing. I was happy to make it past the audition and into the show. As for my ‘career’… I never really thought about doing anything professionally for singing.”

“I’m a first year teacher, so I kind of want to become a good teacher before I start to do anything else,” he added.

In the student category, the runner-up was junior anthropology major Rose Hughes. Rose said she is going to use the $250 prize to, “pay some bills.” After auditioning three times for Fox’s American Idol, Hughes finally received some recognition for her amazing voice.

Finally, the most anticipated prize of the show, the $1000 first prize in the student category went to Leslie Barton. Leslie, a junior business administration major with a concentration in marketing, said “The $1000 means that I can get moving on my demo CD. I write my own music and I’ve been wanting to record a demo for awhile now. The money will definitely help out with that.” When asked if she thought she could or would win, Leslie said, “There was so much talent this year. I thought I had a chance at winning since I came in 2nd last year, but it was all up in the air because the talent was so great.”