The Chester Alumni Foundation, in conjunction with the Chester Alumni Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc., hosted the inaugural Chester Idol singing competition and scholarship fundraiser on Saturday May 5 at the Chester High School Auditorium.
“As part of the foundation’s mission to raise funds for scholarships in Chester and the Delaware County community we decided to do an American Idol type of spin-off,” said Olakunle Ekundare, president of the Chester Alumni Foundation. “There are a lot of talented people in the area who don’t get the exposure needed for the music industry. There are a lot of kids who are talented. We wanted to give the opportunity to showcase their talent for the community and not just for the record producers and the music industry.”
The show featured a concert performance from Afro-Blue Vocal Band, from Howard University and Finalists from Season 3 of NBC’s “The Sing–off.”
Opening for Afro-Blue was singer Nadjah Nicole, who sung “It’s Love” by Jill Scott. Chester’s own Pop and R&B artist Jamai also performed.
The competition featured ten finalists competing for studio time, a chance to perform at Philly Live Pod, professional photo shoots, vocal lessons, and cash prizes. The show started with a youth step show from the Xionos and XI Kudos. The show was hosted by Chester native Tyra Starr.
“All of the contestants not only got a chance to showcase their own talent, but they also showed younger people in the audience that they too can achieve their dream if they work hard,” said Larif Hamm, committee member of Chester Idol. “Jamai Mosley, who is from Chester, had a chance to sing for Beyonce. His performance was not only great, but he also showed the younger generation that no dream is ever too far away. You can achieve anything you put our mind to even given the opportunity.”
The ten finalist included Breyanna Lewis of Clifton Heights, the A Brothers of Philadelphia, Selena McLeggan of Wilmington, Del., Kenisha Pickney of Philadelphia, Stephanie Brow of Garnett Valley, Lauren Munroe of Philadelphia, Shauntae Brown, Jah'wan Bost, and Castell Abner III, were all from Chester. All of the contestants were between the ages of 15-21.
The distinguished panel of judges included Grammy-Nominated Producer Ivan "Orthodox" Barias, Philly Live Pod’s John Barber, Chester Fine Arts Center’s Anzer Kirkland, and Chester Alumni Foundation Board Member Scott Reid. The panel judged the finalists on style, appearance, stage presence, quality, and artistry.
Brown, who sung “At last” by Etta James, won Chester Idol. She will receive studio time with Grammy nominated producer Barias, a professional photo shoot by Shark images, a featured performance at the Philly Live Pod, and vocal training. She will also be opening up for the headliner act at this year’s Chester Fourth of July concert. The A Brothers, who sung “Stay” by Tyrese, won second place and Abner, who sung “Love” by Musiq, won third place.
“By participating in Chester Idol, the contestants will get the exposure that they need, but I also want to see the importance of giving back to the community,” Ekundare said. “It’s great that we did a show like this, but we always give back to the Chester community. We wanted the community to come out and enjoy themselves. Despite what the media says about Chester, Chester is still vibrant and great community with a lot of talented kids that comes from these schools.”
The sponsors for the competition included: Shark Images Photography, Michael Bradley Photography, Chester Fine Arts Center East, Philly Live Pod, Sam & Sams Meats, Howard University Alumni Association, Giant, Shoprite, and BJ’s.
All proceeds from the Chester Idol will benefit scholarships for graduating seniors in Chester High’s Class of 2012.