Lights glaring, an audience cheering, judges watching (and more importantly, listening intently) and 12 nervous-as-hell students. That was the scene at the finale of The Shot, a newly minted singing competition for local university students.
Circus Music, a KW-based company focusing on the business side of music, produced the competition, which featured its founder,CJ Allen, and three local musicians — Stacey Zegers, Joni NehRita, and Mandippal Jandu — as judges and mentors. Laurier student Victoria Bertini was crowned the winner, earning herself a $500 gift card to Fairview Mall, recording studio time in Waterloo, a performance slot at Arts Awards Waterloo Region at Centre in the Square, music marketing coaching from Circus Music, and vocal coaching. Of the performers who made it to the final four, two were UW students: Sarah Russo and Brandon Stoker. Each judge had three contestants to mentor throughout the week; after each of the 12 contestants performed, each judge had to choose one of their three mentees to move on to the final four. “Stacy [Zegers] was my mentor, and I had a connection with her from the beginning,” said Russo, a speech communications student at UW. Russo said the mentoring was her favourite part of the show. Zegers coached her throughout the week between auditions and the finale on song choice, stage presence, and even outfits. “The main thing she helped me with was confidence,” Russo said of Zegers. Russo has been involved with musical theatre her whole life, even holding starring roles in Laurier’s musical productions. This was her first singing competition. Russo was an obvious favourite despite not taking home the title. Both her performances received standing ovations, especially her final one of “And I am Telling You” from <em>Dreamgirls</em>. Brandon Stoker, a UW anthropology student, made it to the final four and showcased his guitar skills with his rendition of “Funky Tonight” by John Butler. Stoker writes his own music and is a frequenter of Bomber’s open mic night. “The final night was a lot of fun. It’s not something I’m used to,” Stoker said. He also mentioned playing with the backup band as a highlight. “I was just happy to be there on the final night.” Stoker’s only complaint was that the competition spanned only a week, however, he said the group of competitors managed to solidify a solid friendship in that short time and he hopes those friendships can be maintained. As far as the mentorship goes, Stoker, who was under the guidance of Jandu, said he thinks the best is yet to come. All of the judges talked about staying in touch with the competitors at the finale. “It seems like we almost hit it off like friends more than judge and contestant,” Stoker said. As far as making the competition annual goes, <em>The Shot’s</em> organizers tweeted, “Believe it or not, we’re already talking <em>The Shot</em> 2015.”