By Ellen Lloyd
Television viewers familiar with American Idol know that the gong-show auditions aired each season are good for a laugh, but not much else. Hordes of singing-sensation wannabes rattle off the same popular hit songs and examples of real talent are few and far between.
But for UC Idol, a student-run spin-off of the popular TV show, real talent is what the event is all about.
“We wanted to focus on the music,” says founder and director Anthony Seto. “Our main purpose is not to have students compete against each other to be the best singer. It’s a showcase of their talent.”
Does this university have spectacular musical talent? Definitely — and not just from the faculties you’d expect. The six UC Idol finalists who will perform this Friday, Oct. 1 include students from business, communication and health science. Working with event organizers and faculty judges, they have been preparing for an unforgettable evening of food, prizes and entertainment.
“This year they’re really stepping it up,” says finalist and third-year student Noelle Wong. “I think it’s going to be more of a professional setup than in previous years. More of a show and that’s what I’m used to.”
Wong has been performing in piano competitions since age six, but this will be her first performance as a singer. She isn’t nervous.
“I absolutely love performing,” she says.
Wong will accompany herself on the original composition “With You.” Contestants writing their own songs is yet another unique aspect of the UC Idol.
“I’m trying to offer the audience something a little bit more original,” explains Wong.
Each UC Idol contestant will sing twice, with rounds separated by an intermission. Audience members will vote to decide who makes it to the final round for a third song and who is ultimately named this year’s idol. Faculty acting as judges will comment on performances as well as entertain the audience with witty banter.
“We pick people who can portray their role and make the audience laugh,” says Seto. “We’ve told them that, ‘You are allowed to poke fun, and make both some positive and not-so-positive comments.’ “
With a stellar British accent and a renowned sense of humour, UC Idol judge and chemistry professor Ashley Causton will play Simon Cowell for the fourth time this year. But for first-time judge Gareth McVicar, his role as Kara DioGuardi is well-researched.
“I really like the feedback structure that she uses, which is looking at both starting and ending comments with more positive discussion,” says McVicar. “That’s very much how I approach my work.”
He hopes to use his experience in the entertainment industry to give the contestants meaningful feedback and advice for future performances. As an undergraduate at the University of Winnipeg, McVicer ran his own production company to help local talent get established.
According to Seto, UC Idol has helped previous performers get recognition beyond the scope of the show.
“Our past idols have been contacted to perform at other events,” he says. “This year we’re getting a lot of external sponsors. Before, it was more focused here.”
This year’s event is chock-full of prizes and freebies. UC Idol tickets not only include admission and dinner, but also parking, intermission snacks and drinks and an after party. All proceeds will go to the Canadian Cancer Society, so if you’re looking for a great night of live entertainment, come out and support this awesome charity event.