By Samantha Brandbergh
Season six of the R Factor, Rider’s version of the popular TV show The X Factor, sounded off on Friday, Sept. 18 in the Yvonne Theater.
Upon entering the theater, audience members were greeted by colorful flashing lights illuminating the room and a projection of the R Factor logo displayed on the walls.
Four white cabanas housed couches that were set up on stage to represent the four judges and their top two performers. As auditions progressed, the judges chose performers for their panel.
Senior elementary education major Jackie Palmer and junior public relations major Kevin Grunder hosted the event and gave a run-down of what to expect throughout the night.
Each judge had a group of performers preselected to audition for a part on their panel, similar to the singing competition show The Voice. Of the 25 acts auditioning, only eight would advance to the next round.
If the judge wants the performer to advance into the next round, they would take a seat on one of the designated cabana couches.
However, taking a seat did not guarantee a ticket to the Finals. If both seats were filled, the judge had the ability to swap out one performer with another they would like to see advance instead.
The judges included Coordinator of Marketing and Promotions Donte Carty, Assistant Director of Campus Life and two-time winning R Factor judge Nick Barbati, singer-songwriter Jaden Michaels and singer Dani Knights.
Senior musical theater major and season four R Factor winner Milika Griffiths started the night off on a high note by performing “Living for Love” by Madonna, which instantly energized the crowd.
The first group of performers auditioned for a spot on Dani Knights’ panel, with freshman liberal arts major Gabriela Mendoza up first, singing “We All Try” by Frank Ocean.
Barbati praised the performance, which ultimately got her a spot on Knights’ panel, calling it “the most authentic audition I’ve ever seen.”
Freshman math major Erin-Marquise Watson was the first solo male of the night, singing John Legend’s “All of Me.”
Throughout his performance, it was clear to see he was a crowd favorite. However, despite the positive audience reaction, Knights did not give Watson a spot on her team, but encouraged him to come back next year.
Senior psychology major Diamond Carr, who earned the second spot on Knights’ panel, sang an acapella version of “Lovin’ Me” by Jonathan McReynolds.
“You have such a calming and soothing voice, you don’t need music to back you up” Knights said.
Carty’s group of performers were next to audition, including senior psychology major Marissa Gennarelli.
Her rendition of Amy Winehouse’s soulful classic “Valerie” got the audience clapping to the beat almost right away and rendered all positive comments from the judges, earning her a spot on Carty’s panel.
Freshman German major Angelo Valentine followed and performed an animated version of Voltaire’s song, “Don’t Go By the River.”
His performance, which Barbati called “one of the greatest R Factor moments of all time,” brought him the loudest cheers of the night to that point, but ultimately not a spot on Carty’s panel.
The next performance, by freshman music studies major Edward Reynolds, or as he calls himself, Lil’ E, was one to make R Factor history.
After singing Bruno Mars’ “Talking to the Moon,” Reynolds nonchalantly nodded to his rap skills.
After encouragement by the judges and audience, Reynolds began rapping an original verse, which recived an overwhelmingly positive reaction.
Reynolds was given the second spot on Carty’s panel, but not for long.
Freshman music studies major Davia Echols, who performed an a cappella version of “What is Love” by V. Bozeman, quickly took his spot on Carty’s panel.
The first student auditioning for Michaels’ panel was sophomore music education major Justin Farrel, who performed a mashup of “Come Together” by the Beatles and “Lose Yourself” by Eminem on an acoustic guitar.
The performance received rave reviews from the judges, with Barbati saying, “within a split second, you had [the audience] in the palm of your hand.”
Farrel’s Ed Sheeran-esque performance earned him a spot on Michaels’ panel.
Sophomore elementary education major Taylor Donovan performed a strong rendition of Adele’s “I Found a Boy,” and was the second contestant to receive a spot on Michaels’ panel.
From the very first note, the audience went wild, including Barbati, who threw his arms in the air upon hearing Donovan’s vocals.
“I felt like I was instantly transported into a lounge; you are an artist,” Barbati said.
Michaels’ panel was complete after freshman elementary education major Chloe Heisler performed an indie-style version of Cindy Lauper’s hit “True Colors,” forcing Michaels to eliminate Farrel. However, the judges decided to advance Farrel into the next round to perform as the judges’ wild card surprise finalist.
The last group of performers were auditioning for Barbati’s panel, including freshman musical theater major Janayla Montes, who, with her a cappella performance of “Precious Lord,” took the “whole room to church,” according to judge Carty.
The emotional and intense performance, dedicated to her nana, allowed her to fill the first spot on Barbati’s panel.
The final act of the night was freshman secondary education major Joseph Panuccio, who took a risk and performed an original song at the piano.
The risk paid off, however, because Panuccio earned a standing ovation from the audience, thanks to his friends from the soccer team who were supporting him from the crowd.
Barbati told Panuccio that, even after seeing more than 200 auditions, it was the “best audition we’ve had.”
Panuccio landed the second seat on Barbati’s panel and advanced into the next round, making him the only male performer in the top eight.
At the end of the night, it was announced that the four panels would be combined into two. Michaels’ and Carty’s panels being one, and Knights’ and Barbati’s being the other.
The finalists will work with their mentors to prepare for the Finals, which will take place on Oct. 2 at 8 p.m. in the BLC Theater.
Additional reporting by Valerie Palmer