Who Will be the Next…Andover Idol!

All activity seemed to stop around campus around 8 p.m. on Monday and Tuesday evening. Instead of doing homework, more than two-thirds of the student body crowded around library computers and leaned against speakers. Why? To listen to the soulful, cracking and sometimes entirely off-key renditions of great hits. Andover’s WPAA followed the successful formula of “American Idol’s” hybrid reality show and talent competition to simulate its own “Andover Idol” competition. “This is the first time we’ve held the competition in four years,” said WPAA General Manager Henry Frankievich ’07. “It was so popular in my freshman year that we wanted to do it again. But it wasn’t until now that we managed to get it all organized.” Already halfway through the competition, the two-week-long Andover Idol competition created as much enthusiasm around campus as the real show. Andover’s own star search imitated the real “American Idol” to perfection. Last week, the 25 hopeful contestants came in one by one and stood behind a microphone in front of the judges. Carolyn Pollard ’07 said, “I’m interested if there are any new people that can sing.” On Monday night, WPAA aired the recorded auditions and announced the 10 contestants moving on to the second round. On Tuesday night, the 10 contestants sang live in the WPAA studios. For this round, the singers sang show tunes from movies, Disney classics and Broadway musicals. The songs choices ranged from Pocahontas to ABBA. After each performance the judges offered their constructive and sometimes vicious comments. According to the three judges, Lucas McMahon ’08, Lauren Kelleher ’08 and Nat Lavin ’07, some of the standout performances included Jane Shin ’08 and Tessa Pompa ’08. Also among one of the most memorable performances was Joel Gonzales’ ’09 performance of “Just Can’t Wait to be King.” Gonzales changed the pitches of his voice to imitate favorite characters Zazoo and Pumba. The drum and piano accompaniment played by Samuel Weiss ’09 and Matthew Villanueva ’07, respectively, impressed listeners even more. Villanueva said, “ I really enjoyed being apart of this competition, but I felt a lot of pressure and responsibility to accompany the singers. Sometimes we were just improvising on the spot…by the end of the show Sam and I really formed a chemistry and got a lot of momentum.” Listeners could not see how tense the auditions were behind the scenes. WPAA was on a tight schedule, allotting 3-4 minutes for each act, but the transitions were seamless. From a technical perspective, Steve Farquhar ’07 masterfully controlled eight microphones going into four mixers, which were connected to three computers monitored with five screens. After the show, students flooded WPAA’s web site to cast their votes. Each student was allotted five votes for anyone of their choice. However, some people found ways to vote more than the standard five times. But this system accurately reflects “American Idol’s” voting system of allowing voters to vote as many times as they wish. Aside from the contestants and managing crew, similarly to American Idol, one of the judges emerged as a person fans love to hate. Andover has found its own Simon Cowell in the form of Nat Lavin. His scathing remarks crushed the confidence of a couple of contestants, but certainly kept radio listeners entertained. Andrew Richardson ’08 commented, “The only reason I listened to Andover Idol was to hear Nat Lavin’s playful banter and rapier-like wit.” However, contestant Carrie St. Louis ’08, already nervous about singing live, said, “I was terrified! But even more terrified of Nat because I didn’t know what he was going to say.” WPAA and students did not think this competition was going to be as popular as it has been. The $100 incentive for first place and campus-wide fame attracted enough students to added an additional try-out session. Contestants had varied reasons for trying out. Akosua Ayim ’07 said, “I’m always doing more professional stuff. I wanted to do something where I have a little more independence with what I can sing.” Audrey Adu ’10 said, “I like to sing, and I thought this would be a good opportunity to get involved in singing at Andover.” This competition was a great opportunity to let people win their five minutes of fame. In the auditions, the prospective idols’ song choices were as varied as the contestants themselves. Some decided to stick with more well-known tunes, such as Upper Carrie St. Louis who sang a rendition of “Natural Woman.” Dan Silva ’08 stunned listeners by singing Enrique Iglesias’ “Hero” in Spanish. Stephen Stapczynski ’07 sang a comedic version of Adam Sandberg and Justin Timberlake’s SNL hit. Steve Farquhar ’07, technical operator, reflected, “Just like in the real show, you get some people who are really good and some just trying to be funny” Listeners can tune in next Tuesday to hear the five contestants who are moving on in the competition. They will be singing favorite Motown oldies.