By J’na Jefferson
Jalyssa James and Toni Walker-Stanley, both junior popular music culture majors, proved that two is better than one when they won the coveted top spot in this year’s R Factor competition.
The two, who came to auditions singing an a cappella version of “I Love You, Lord,” got the crowd on its feet for both of their final song choices.
The first was “This Will Be” by Natalie Cole, and the second was a mash-up of “One Night Only” from Dreamgirls, “On The Radio” by Donna Summer and “It’s Raining Men” by The Weather Girls. The two brought costume changes and choreography, and paired with their talent, it was enough to clinch the win.
“Winning was one of the most beautiful experiences I have had at Rider,” James said. “Toni and I worked extremely hard on the choreography and the arrangements of the songs. We did not want to win for ourselves, but for our ministry, Unashamed. We wanted to win to give our group something meaningful, something that could be experienced by the members and their families. We will use our concert to feature Unashamed and give something for members to be proud of.”
Walker-Stanley had a similar drive, though her family was also a factor.
“When it was announced that we had won, my first thought was ‘My sister is going to be so excited,’” she said. “We want to use both the money and the concert for the choir, so it was truly a blessing to win.”
James and Walker-Stanley are using the $500 they won to support their ministry, Unashamed Gospel Choir of Rider University, of which James is the co-founder, president and director and Walker-Stanley is the secretary. Both say religion is a big part of their lives.
“We really relied on our faith and went out to perform with the talent God granted us,” James said.
This is the second time one of Barbati’s picks has won, and this is also the second year that he and fellow judge/mentor Karin Torchia, who mentored sophomore musical theater major Andres Feliz, have squared off in the finals. Freshman musical theater major Milika Griffiths, who was Donte Carty’s contestant, placed third.
Team Karin Torchia consisted of Feliz and 2012 R Factor runner-up and sophomore communication major Megan Scheels.
Team Jamiyl Mosley had sophomore radio and TV major MJ Chatman and senior arts administration major Louise Mayer.
Team Donte Carty had Griffiths and sophomore musical theater major Angelina Valente.
Team Nick Barbati had James and Walker-Stanley and freshman voice performance major Stephano Andreotti.
The finals had the two contestants from each team sing, and the audience voted via text message to determine the final three. Audience members were only allowed to send in one text vote each, and they had two minutes to do so.
Following this step, the competition was narrowed down to the final three, which consisted of James and Walker-Stanley, Griffiths and Feliz.
Feliz was a crowd pleaser throughout the competition. His first song was “Heaven” by John Legend, and his second was a rendition of “Feelin’ Good.”
“You should just sing everywhere,” Moseley said.
Griffiths sang “Fallin’” by Alicia Keys and “All the Man That I Need” by Whitney Houston.
“Meeting a freshman with so much talent already is really great,” Carter said.
After these final performances, another round of text votes were submitted.
James and Walker-Stanley intend to stay close to their roots for their on-campus concert, which will take place on University Day.
“We will definitely be performing gospel songs,” Walker-Stanley said.
James added that she hopes they can get guest performers from other college ministries as well.
For those who are considering trying out for next year’s competition James offered some words of wisdom.
“Be true to yourself and honest in your music and your audience and the judges will respect that,” she said.
Printed in the 3/1/13 edition