Pitt students can show off pipes

By Jordan Streussnig

Before last year’s Campus Superstar competition, Rachel Labosky hadn’t had much luck with singing on campus, but she decided to take a chance Campus Superstar auditions

Thursday 6:30-9 p.m.in the WPU Ballroom

Before last year’s Campus Superstar competition, Rachel Labosky hadn’t had much luck with singing on campus, but she decided to take a chance.

“I heard about the competition through friends, and they suggested I try it out,” Labosky said. “I wasn’t sure how far I’d make it, but I figured it’d be worth a shot.”

The Pitt sophomore and double major in communication and English writing had an optimistic attitude and a stellar voice that took her to second place out of 156 contestants.

“The competition helped me to believe in myself,” Labosky said. “Before the competition, I’d been turned down by a few singing groups here at Pitt, but after Campus Superstar I decided not to give up. And because of that, I am now a member of the Heinz Chapel Choir.”

Now this year’s competition is inviting a whole new group of full-time college students — undergraduate or graduate — to wow the judges with their pipes.

Two auditions have already taken place in October at Carnegie Mellon University and Point Park University, and now the competition will offer Pitt students their shot this Thursday in the William Pitt Union Ballroom.

The Hillel Jewish University Center event, which touts itself as “one of Pittsburgh’s largest annual singing competitions,” began five years ago.

To audition, each student will sing 16 bars of a song of their choice a capella for a panel of three judges. Judges will select 25 semi-finalists from all three auditions to compete on Feb. 27, 2011 at an undetermined location in Oakland. Then, 10 finalists will compete in front of more than 1,500 people on April 3 at Carnegie Music Hall. The audience at the finals will select the winner.

Linda Myers, Hillel JUC’s associate director, stressed that the auditions are meant for anyone and everyone to get out there and try.

“I don’t want people to be intimidated and afraid to compete,” she said. “Some of our past winners were trained in singing and are going to school for performance, but we’ve had winners who were biology majors and English majors, and they’ve blown us away.”

Rocky Paterra, a freshman at Pitt, will audition for Campus Superstar for the first time this Thursday.

“I want to participate purely because of how much I love performing for an audience,” Paterra said. “It’s one of those rushes that can’t really be described, and I take any opportunity I can to perform.”

Paterra is no stranger to the thrill of performance and is well-versed in the ups and downs of competition.

In addition to being a member of a campus a capella group, the Pitt Pendulums, Paterra has also auditioned for “American Idol” for the past three summers in both Chicago and New Jersey.

“The Idol auditions are crazy intense,” he said. “I, like the majority of the auditioners, got sent home during the preliminaries. And while it was a lot of pain to deal with seeing so many talented people around me get sent home while the ‘crazy people’ got through to give the show its ratings, I learned a lot about how to deal with failure and rejection,” Paterra continued. “It can’t be taken to heart.”

But Paterra doesn’t simply compete to be the winner, he enters events like Campus Superstar because he loves performing.

“I never go into a competition expecting to go far or win,” Paterra said. “It’s a great feeling when you win a competition, but staying grounded throughout will make the victory all the more meaningful. I expect that this competition will be a fun time.”

Myers said this is a great time for students to explore the world of performing.

“It’s a lot of fun. The performers have a wonderful experience. Most, even those studying drama or music, have never performed in front of 1,500 people before. Also, there will be some Hollywood talent scouts in the audience, and maybe some others from the music industry,” she said. “And of course there is the cash reward of $5,000 for the winner and $1,000 each for the second and third place winners.”

Paterra and Labosky both explained that while putting yourself out there to be judged can be scary, it can also be an exhilirating learning experience.

“You never know what people are looking for,” Labosky said. “No matter how many times you get down, you have to keep pushing yourself to get back up, and the reward will surely be worth the effort. It was for me.”