By Cathleen Leitch
America always seems to be on the search for the next big star with shows like American Idol, America’s Got Talent and Star Search. Now Rider University is on its own quest to find the best vocal entertainer on campus with a competition called The R Factor.
The idea for The R Factor originally came from Nick Barbati, coordinator of campus activities, after watching America’s interpretation of The X Factor.
“What I like about [The X Factor] is that there’s mentoring, there’s coaching,” Barbati said. “It’s a more positive atmosphere because the judges are invested emotionally. I also think we have a lot of talented students here that are musically talented, beyond just the ones who perform in our musicals or at Westminster.”
Last Saturday, 21 students auditioned for a chance to win their own performance on University Day in April. Participants could perform solo or in a group in the Bart Luedeke Center Theater before 150 of their peers. Only 14 made the judges’ cut, including 13 solo artists and one a cappella group from Westminster.
Though she did not make it to the performance battle round, freshman Carrie Lettiere is just happy she got a chance to audition and said it was “such an amazing opportunity to display vocal talent.”
The contestants had to pass through a vote by the four judges, all of whom are staff at Rider. The panel consists of Barbati; Dave Keenan, the director of campus life; Karin Torchia, the associate director of athletics for external operations and Karson Langenfelder, director of study tours and conference services.
For the 14 finalists, the next chapter will take place over the course of the next two weeks during the judges’ decision round. Each contestant will be assigned a judge and a team who will attempt to improve each contestant’s performance quality. The team will aid contestants with their performances by working with lights and sound professionals and sometimes even finding backup dancers.
“We form teams based on our acts and we compete against each other for the most entertaining performers,” Barbati said. “The students aren’t judged so much on their vocal talent so much as they are judged on their entertainment qualities.”
Each judge, initially handling four to five students, will have to choose two contestants to move onto the performance battle round. The R Factor includes live performances in front of the student body from eight contestants.
Junior Angela Lozupone, who qualified for the next round, looks forward to the rest of the competition.
“I thought it would be something fun to do because I miss performing,” she said. “I am excited and nervous for the next round. There are so many other really talented people competing, so it should be interesting.”
Barbati is still unsure of how the votes will be cast, but said the audience will ultimately choose the winner after the final four acts battle against each other in a showdown of entertainment ability.
Lettiere shared some advice she feels will be helpful for the remaining contestants. “Someone very wise once told me that when you’re on stage, you’re there to perform and entertain the audience,” she said.