By James Shepherd
Rider University’s annual student singing competition was named the best campus tradition by the National Association of Campus Activities.
The competition, modeled after the television show The X Factor, pits students against each other and places them under the tutelage of mentors who assist them in choosing songs and crafting their final performances. These performances are voted on by the student body, determining the R Factor champion.
“In 2011, we were challenged in student affairs to come up with new programs that would really differentiate Rider from any other school,” Nicholas Barbati, Rider’s assistant director of campus life for activities and student engagement, said, describing the genesis of R Factor. “And so, I was literally sitting in a barber chair and an ad came on for when the X Factor was coming to the United States.”
Barbati helped launch the event, and it has occurred every fall since then.
Previous winners of The R Factor include senior musical theater major Milika Griffiths and junior arts administration major Llundon Lawson in 2014, sophomore business administration major Joseph Panuccio in 2015 and junior healthcare management major Chris Patrick in 2016. The ‘legacy’ mentors, Nicholas Barbati and Dani Knights, have appeared every year.
“I am so happy that Rider was able to be recognized for what I think is a monumental event for the university,” Griffiths said. “It feels good to know that I was a part of something that is being honored and awarded for the greatness that it is.”
Rider was up against other universities in the competition like Roger Williams University’s Midnight Madness, an event which celebrates the winter athletic teams at their university, as well as Wake Frost University’s Lighting of the Quad, an event which celebrates the meaning of community as well as holiday spirit. However, it was Rider which came out on top with an event celebrating and focusing upon the talents of its students and its community.
“I love that it’s considered a tradition because it’s a good representation of what the university is about, which is the support and showcasing of our students.” Griffiths said.
“I just thought, ‘Wow, this will be a great program for students because it would achieve multiple objectives.’” Barbati said. “‘It’d be a really great new multi-night weekend program but also as a way to deepen our connection with the performing arts students on campus as well as giving a platform to students who like to perform music but who aren’t a part of our musical arts program or anything else.’”
The R Factor has grown every year since 2011, but one thing hasn’t changed, according to Barbati. “The only thing that’s the same is the quality of the students,” he said.
Although 2015 winner Panuccio enjoyed his victory, he credits his success to Barbati’s hard work and determination.
“It’s a great feeling knowing I won as a freshman and to win a competition of this caliber, it’s a great feeling,” said Panuccio. “Nick really did an amazing job creating the competition and putting everything into place. He’s the engine behind it all and I’m thankful he gave me the opportunity.”
The R Factor still has many years left in it and many more students to settle in the spotlight, according to Barbati. Those interested in signing up for the 8th season of the R Factor can visit the Office of Student Activities.
“It amazes me that every season, I am able to see talented students who just want to perform and share their gift with the university,” Griffiths said. “They get to be stars up there on that stage and that’s what makes it the most enjoyable.”