By Sarah Siock
R Factor, Rider University’s annual singing competition, took a new stage this year as a completely virtual event.
Rider’s version of “The X Factor” kicked off its 11th season on Aug. 28 at 7 p.m. The event was live-streamed with all contestants performing remotely. Audience members tuned in through Facebook Live to watch 17 talented Rider students audition live for a spot in the finals.
Due to the online format, the rules of this year’s R Factor were altered. Contestants needed three of the four judges to vote them into the final round. Previously, the competition was a tournament-style format that limited down the number of contestants.
“R Factor has been an in-person program that always had a huge crowd. It has the ability for us to share our student’s talents with the whole campus. So this year things are different but we did not want to scrap the program because it has become such a Rider tradition and part of the Rider experience,” said R Factor judge and Assistant Director of Campus Life Nick Barbati.
Former “The X Factor” contestant Dani Knights and former “The Voice” contestants Dez Duron and Matthew Schuler, joined Barbati as judges. The judges also participated remotely through video chat.
“I like that this year is different. I miss everyone being together. It is always different performing on a large stage versus a small space. It is a little bit more intimate and maybe people can be more relaxed. When you are comfortable that is when you perform your best,” said Knights before the start of the competition. Knights has been an R Factor judge since 2014.
Contestants showed off a diverse range of talent. From original songs and acapella performances to an Ariana Grande cover, R Factor had it all.
Each contestant performed for 90 seconds and received feedback before the judges gave their final vote. Audience members were able to interact throughout the night in the live chat on the video stream.
A standout performer from last week’s show was junior Madisyn Flansburg. Flansburg performed an original song titled “My Time.” This was her first time participating in R Factor and she received raving reviews from the judges.
“I just felt like it was time to do something different and something that I do not usually do,” said Flansburg when asked why she chose to audition.
Flansburg advanced to the final round with a unanimous “yes” from all four judges.
Barbati added that this year’s unique format of R Factor may have appealed to a different type of student.
“On a typical year, maybe the live and in-person format would not have been something they wanted to do. This gives students with a different type of style or interest in performing the chance to share their voice,” he said.
The night was free of technical glitches for all performers except for one. Senior contestant Madison Schramm’s video lagged and the judges could not hear her audio properly. Since a fair critique could not take place, the judges allowed Schramm to submit a pre-recorded video that was shown later on in the night. Schramm performed “July” by Noah Cyrus.
After watching Schramm’s second performance, the judges advanced her to the next round.
“I was so glad I was honest and said I could not hear her. It would not have been fair and now we got to see what she sounded like. She has a cool folky vibe,” said Knights after listening to Schramm’s recorded performance.
The night wrapped up with 13 contestants advancing to the final round of R Factor. Each advancing contestant will perform a full song at the finale. After that, each judge will pick one finalist to go into the very final round the same night. Those contestants will have a ‘“showdown” and then the winner will be voted on by students.
The finale will be streamed on Sept. 4 at 7 p.m. Students can visit rfactor.live to watch the live performances.