Ten talented contestants will sing their hearts out tonight for the opportunity of a lifetime. No, I am not talking about the contestants of the ratings powerhouse “American Idol” — though, you will get to watch an alumnus from the show perform. Nonetheless, if you want to watch the singers I am referring to, you will have to give your TV a rest for the night and head out to the Overture Center for All-Campus Idol, presented by the Blair Beinhaker Friendship Foundation and featuring 2008 “American Idol” finalist Michael Johns.
Created five years ago as a college version of Fox’s hit TV show, All-Campus Idol will feature 10 University of Wisconsin students competing to win the love of the audience by singing songs that range in style from contemporary to country. Yet, their song choice is only one of many ways this year’s performers differ. They also have diverse stories as to how they ended up onstage in the first place.
“I started singing in church when I was like four or five with my grandpa, and it just kind of exploded from there,” UW sophomore Cortney Brasser said.
“For me, my brother and sister started playing instruments when I was really young, so they exposed me to an expansive collection of music, and I just fell in love from there,” UW senior Peter Goitom said.
“I have been singing and doing a lot of musical theater since elementary school,” UW senior Kayleigh Brancamp said. “My dad and I also perform karaoke every weekend when I go home.”
While all three agreed this event would be a nerve-wracking, to say the least, they do all have past experience being onstage. Brasser sang at Carnegie Hall a few years back, Goitom is a member of the university’s men’s a cappella group Fundamentally Sound and Brancamp performed in front of a crowd as winner of the Miss Beloit contest.
Nevertheless, the pressure is on for contestants because this year’s winner will not only receive tickets to the “American Idol” finale but also have the opportunity to open for OK Go and We The Living this Friday at the Badger Blowout Concert.
Although contestants will not have to face anything like Simon Cowell’s brutally honest remarks, they will be judged by a four-member celebrity panel at the end of their performance. Similar to “American Idol,” the judges will not actually choose the winners, but their critique could potentially sway the audience’s opinion.
This year, Michael Johns, the Australian singer-songwriter who finished in eighth place on the seventh season of “Idol,” will not only fill one of the four judge’s seats but will also perform. Having performed in Wisconsin in the past — he sang a show with “Idol” winner David Cook while donning cheesehead hats – Johns jumped at the chance to return.
“There are some things you say ‘yes’ to and some things you say ‘no’ to, but I thought this would be fun and I love that part of the world,” Johns said. “I mean, one of my favorite cities on the tour is Green Bay, so I love Wisconsin.”
Having experience with being at the mercy of the audience’s decision, Johns provided some advice for tonight’s contestants.
“You have to be honest with yourself,” Johns said. “If you are up there to have some fun, great. But if you really want to do this as a career, then really sing from the heart and choose something you are passionate about. When people see someone doing something passionate, regardless of what it is, they will think it is pretty awesome.”
The event’s sponsor, the Blair Beinhaker Friendship Foundation, is another reason Johns agreed to come and do the show for free. BBFF is a New Jersey-based non-profit organization striving to ease tough situations for people by raising awareness and providing financial support.
“Basically, it is a foundation that is dedicated to putting smiles on people’s faces,” Alyssa Beinhaker, a representative from the foundation, said. “To bring happiness and laughter is kind of our goal. It is very much for anyone who is going through a tough time.”
Although the event itself is free, a small raffle will take place with all of the proceeds collected going to charity. Raffle prizes will include six chances for meet-and-greet passes with Johns after the show and an iPod Touch fully loaded with the new Michael Johns’ single, “Heart On My Sleeve,” and the contestants’ favorite songs.
According to All-Campus Idol Event Chair Alyson Beckman, this year’s event will be different from those in the past, in that it will tie together both a campus and community aspect thanks to BBFF. For example, the contestants sang at the Children’s Hospital last week as a way to bring smiles to the kids there.
In addition, the voting system has also changed from years past. The audience will now vote for their choice while at the show through text messaging. This way, the winner will be announced at the end of the show as opposed to a few days later.
So, if you are looking for a chance to enjoy some local and national singing talent and an opportunity to support a good cause, head out to the Overture Center tonight and cheer on your favorite Idol.
All-Campus Idol starts at 7 p.m. in the Capitol Theater at the Overture Center. Admission is free, and seats are given on a first-come, first-serve basis.