2 Lincoln Park students in 'Rocket to the Stars' finals
May 20, 2012
Posted: Sunday, May 20, 2012 2:15 am
Local singers hope to rocket to fame
By Maura Zurick For the Beaver CountyTimes Timesonline.com
NEW CASTLE -- Five of the 11 finalists in western Pennsylvania's biggest singing competition have Beaver County ties.
They'll compete Friday in the Rocket to the Stars semifinals at the Scottish Rite Cathedral in New Castle.
Six singers at that contest will advance to the finals July 14 at the New Castle Fireworks Festival, where the top prize is $10,000 and a year of professional artist development.
"When we say artist development we are talking about high level training across a number of areas," Wade Sutton, creator of the second annual Rocket to the Stars contest, said. "The winner will get a year of voice and performance training from our producer, James Meny."
Sutton said Rocket to the Stars is a unique singing competition because the focus is more on training, development and creating opportunities for local talent.
"So we work with them on improving their vocal techniques, staging skills, performance applications, and microphone handling," he said. "We sit down and talk to them about interacting with the media and potential fans. We talk to them about how things like pictures posted on their Facebook pages could impact the way people look at them. And we work hard to change their attitudes and work ethics."
The local semi-finalists:
Dawn Savage, 23, of New Brighton, a Robert Morris University graduate currently pursuing her dream of singing professionally.
Samuel Mancini, 18, of Patterson Township, a senior at Blackhawk High School, who got his start singing when in fifth grade as a member of a boy band, Static, that sang at school and other local venues.
Mariah Keefer, 17, of Monaca, is a junior at the Lincoln Park Performing Arts Charter School in Midland, who has been singing since the age of 3.
Kiersten Lee Kelly, 16, of Findlay Township, is a sophomore at Lincoln Park.
Christian Beck, 18, of Freedom, started taking vocal lessons when he was 10, and was involved in high school choir and musicals.
Having advanced from preliminary rounds in Pittsburgh, Erie, New Wilmington and Warrn, Ohio, the local semi-finalists each said Rocket to the Stars has given them the opportunity to pursue their dreams.
" I want to make people feel something when they hear my music," Savage said. "It's all about emotion. I try and replicate what other artists do for me."
Savage, a country singer, already achieved one of her musical aspirations by releasing a self-titled CD on iTunes.
"I went to Nashville in January, and I want to go back," she said. "I did a couple of open mic nights and it was amazing to see people enjoying my music."
On a trip abroad, she also got to sing on an Irish radio station.
"It just opened my eyes because no matter where you are in the world music is so connective," she said. "It just connects people like no other. It is one of those things that people can just feel. We all get it. It's something we can all share."
Mancini said he hopes to release an album and just get discovered.
"I tried 'American Idol' once so far," he said. "I made it all the way to the third round. I'll probably do it again if they come back."
Mancini said he likes to sing R&B and pop and that his musical inspirations are Trey Songz and Britney Spears.
He will also be singing at open mic nights at Luanne's Route 68 in Industry.
He said he's learned a lot already from Rocket to the Stars.
"I can't wait to go crazy on stage. It'll be fun," he said.
Keefer performs publicly at Lincoln Park, including a Tuesday show at the Midland facility in which she will sing opera, a genre she loves.
"It's different from the stuff you hear on the radio," Keefer said. "It's just different musically, style-wise and vocally. But really I love it all. I go through phases of what I like to sing. For a while, I sang a lot of country. After I came to Lincoln Park, I started focusing on folk and jazz."
After high school, Keefer said she will pursue a professional singing career.
"If I make it to the finals in Rocket, I'd be on the radio," she said. "That'd be huge for me. I would love to be on the street and have someone recognize me for my music."
Keefer said her musical inspiration is rapper Eminem because his music is full of emotion and tells a story.
"Every time I hear him, I get chills, like when I hear a really good line," she said. "That's what I want to do for people. I want to make people feel something through my music."
She said Rocket to the Stars has been fun and rewarding.
"It's been a lot more work than I expected, too," she said. "They're helping me not only become a better vocalist, but to also prepare me for the music business and to know what to expect," she said.
Kelly, too, has used the Rocket to the Stars experience to improve her vocals and guitar skills.
"I want to start writing and performing as much as I can," she said. "I also want to make a demo just to get my name out there. I also want to go to college for music, business and songwriting."
She loves the emotional singing of Adele.
"That's what I do when I sing. I take all of my feelings and just put them in my songs," she said. "I love to hear her stuff because I feel like I can relate to it. I also like Demi Lovato because of how strong she is. She makes me feel like I can do whatever I put my mind to."
Beck, a music theater student at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, wants to go to Nashville after he graduates to become a country artist.
"That's my dream" he said. "I really just want to sing."
Beck said one of his favorite artists is Jason Aldean because of his vocal ability and lyrics.
Beck can't wait to perform Friday at the semi-finals, having had a great time so far in the competition.
"I've had rehearsals and we have gotten the chance to really get to know each other," Beck said. "It's like a big family. Some of us will move on and some of us won't. It's going to feel weird not seeing everyone all the time. I don't see the other contestants as my competition. I've made so many lasting friendships from this."
About Lincoln Park Performing Arts Charter School
The Lincoln Park Performing Arts Charter School (www.lppacs.org) is a Pennsylvania public school providing a state-approved academic program and pre-professional training for grades 7-12 in music, theater, dance, creative writing, health science arts and media arts. The school enrolls 550 students from 58 surrounding school districts.
Media Contact: Fred Miller, communications coordinator, firstname.lastname@example.org