This Year's Vocal Sensation is ... Katerina Gaglione
By Paige Shippee
Vocal Sensation is the new name but singing was still the game in this high school’s search for the best student vocalist. Originally called West Warwick Idol, this year’s version of the show had some familiar faces ... and some new ones with a freshman joining two seniors as the top three vocalists who competed against one another to win this year’s show.
Newcomer Alan Cruz cracked the top three along with seniors Renee Bonin and Katerina Gaglione, the eventual winner. Gaglione, who had made it to the top three two of the previous three years finally won with her rendition of Adele’s One and Only.
“I felt accomplished,” said Gaglione. “I would have been a little upset (if I had not won) but I would have gotten over it.” Gaglione, who has been taking singing and performing lessons since she was 9, reached several years into the past to pick her opening song. House of the Rising Sun, a 1964 hit by The Animals which propelled her into the final round.
“You have to choose something that everybody knows,” Gaglione said of her reason for picking the song. Her choice of Adele, on the other hand, was a little more risky, but it paid off. Gaglione was , at first, advised not to sing a song by the multi-Grammy Award Winning singer Adele, who with her vocal range is a tough act to follow. But her performance earned praise from the judges. She remembers thinking “This sounds better than I thought it would,” said Gaglione, who added that it was the “best possible performance I could have put on.”
The show was co-hosted by WWHS teacher Mr. Harry Ryan and 2011 winner Jenna Alinsunurin. Each year the Tri-M society holds the vocal talent show, with proceeds benefiting the student organization. Also, the format of the show was the same, with the top 10 students from auditions showcasing their talent. This year 37 students tried out for the show, according to Metro Narcisi, WWHS music teacher and Tri-M advisor. Recordings from those try-outs were then sent to six “independent vocal music adjudicators” according to Narcisi, who added that these people are generally music teachers, professional vocalists and music producers. They receive the recordings, in which each candidate is identified only by a number. They then score each performance with a rubric and send the results back to Tri-M. From there the top 10 performers are chosen for the show. At the show the audience votes for the top three candidates, then for the winner.
One key component for success in Vocal Sensation is pic king the right song for one’s voice. Many of the contestants did a good job at choosing their songs, but unfortunately only three of them could make it to the second round … and only one could win.
Bonin said she was very shocked to make the final three, which was her initial goal. Bonin offered some words of advice for future contestants. “Pick songs in advance so you have time to understand them, also be patient, this is an experience and you should always have fun.” Bonin also got some advice from past winner and judge Nicole McNamara, who told her to “Sing as though you are in the bathroom, have fun, and be comfortable with what you are doing,” Bonin said. That advice seemed to have worked.
While Bonin and Gaglione will not be back to compete in Vocal Sensation, Cruz has three more tries to improve on his showing this year. He was the second runner up and Bonin the first runner up.
“There were 10 people who were very good,” said Cruz. “I was like `Oh my gosh' I can't believe I got there.”
Cruz rode Chris Brown through the first round and into the finals. His first song was With You and his second was Next to You. His demeanor and voice fit well with Brown's music, earning him the votes from the crowd and praise from the panel of judges.
Narcisi said that the contest is a great way to showcase the musical talent at WWHS, not all of which comes from obvious places.
“I find that we have incredibly talented students,” he said. “Many of the students that audition may not actually be one of the known `vocal stars.`” According to Narcisi, two of the top 10 students are flute players in his band class and he had no idea they actually sang so well. “In past years, winners and finalists have gone on to starring in musicals at WWHS or becoming prominent members of chorus,” Narcisi said. In fact, 2010 winner McNamara sang with Narcisi’s Jazz Ensemble “A” Band as lead vocalist. “Likewise, some students in the top 10 may not even be a member of the music department, like last year's champ Jenna Alinsunurin,” Narcisi said.