The viewers numbered in the dozens rather than the millions. But who needs a television audience when a live crowd is eating up your performance? And for second-year student Patrick Simeon, winning an Idol competition — the first-ever “U of T Idol” — could still be a useful stepping stone to his dream career.
Simeon triumphed in the two-hour finale of the tri-campus singing competition, held at Hart House in March, with his versions of “Back at One,” by Bryan Adams and an original song called “Writer’s Block,” which included a beatboxing interlude. He won over the packed room with the Adams song, especially when he hit a difficult falsetto.
For his efforts, Simeon won $200 and 10 studio hours at CIUT. He plans to use the studio hours to record an EP – a short album of five songs. “I have maybe three songs ready. I still need to write,” he says.
Simeon, who is a second-year specialist in sociology and psychology, began performing and writing songs just three years ago. He describes his sound as acoustic R&B, but adds that he’s not limited to that genre and plays anything that catches his ear.
The first song he wrote was a Christmas present for his girlfriend at the time. He began taking music seriously last year, and now considers it to be more than a hobby. “It’s been my lifestyle,” he says. “If I get the chance to pursue it full-time, I wouldn’t hesitate.”
Three student musicians sat on the judging panel. On American Idol, the female judge is “the nice one,” but in the U of T version all three judges were nice. Their most common criticism was stage nervousness, which diminished for most contestants during their second song.
The long road to the finals began last fall when the judges selected 25 performers based on audio clips from 44 hopefuls. The finalists were drawn from previous rounds of the competition.
Katie Lai kicked off the show with “Forget You,” the gentler version of Cee-Lo’s hit, and impressed the judges with her vibratos. Rudy Silvamer donned a pair of bright red sneakers and belted out “Billie Jean,” in what one judge called “a super-fun fantastic song choice.”
Second place went to Sherry-Lynn Lee, who was the only contestant apart from Simeon to sing a song she wrote. She received $100 and a guaranteed spot on next year’s U of T Idol. Third prize and $50 went to Kristine Routhier, who had a smoky, soulful voice. She had only sung in public twice before.
The evening was organized by third-year student Farhan Husain, with the help of Hart House staff and the Hart House Music Committee; Husain also emceed the event.