U of T Idol, a year-long event held at Hart House, borrows the concept of the popular TV show American Idol: students, staff, and faculty from all three campuses have the opportunity to compete for the glory of being crowned the idol. New contestants perform almost every month, and at the finale on March 31, the judges will give awards for first, second, and third place.

It’s also an opportunity for performers to sing with the accomplished Woodshed Orchestra. The group was founded by veteran Toronto musician Dave Clark in 2005. Clark served as the drummer for Canadian alt-rockers the Rheostatics, and he has also worked with Julie Doiran and Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip, among others.

As well, the showcase is a great opportunity for everyone else to enjoy a fun night of music, friends, and food. Every performance welcomes new contestants to share with the audience the two or three covers they think best showcase their talent.

The first show was held last Thursday. Two wonderful performers, Ada Chan and Rudy Silvera, shared their voices, and the Uplifters, a section of the Woodshed Orchestra, provided diverse and skilled accompaniment. The relaxed confidence of the Uplifters fostered a sense of camaraderie among everyone present and helped the contestants relax and perform their best.

Chan was the first to perform at U of T Idol this year. Because of the small-scale, low-stress nature of the event, Chan was allowed a mini-dress rehearsal before her performance. The audience was delighted to have the opportunity to hear her sing her pieces a second time. Chan performed a lovely rendition of Bob Dylan’s “Make You Feel My Love” and a medley she co-wrote, called “Doctor”, of Travie McCoy’s “Billionaire” and Bruno Mars’ “The Lazy Song”. Chan said that whereas Travie McCoy wants to “be on the cover of Forbes”, her desire is to “be on the cover of Science Daily”. Her witty lyrics and sweet voice were very well received by her audience.

Silvera, a finalist in last year’s competition, performed next. The moment Silvera stepped on stage, his confidence and love of performing was evident. Silvera sang “Forget You” by Cee Lo Green, “Stand by Me” by Ben E. King, and “Hound Dog” by Elvis Presley. His rich voice was inflected with an exotic accent that surely melted the hearts of his female fans.

The whole show was spectacular. The creative ideas of artists mingled and developed before the audience’s eyes. Both contestants were skilled performers, both with their voice and their presence.

Throughout the year, the performances will take place in the Arbor Room in Hart House. It has a relaxed and open atmosphere, where performers can feel comfortable and be encouraged by their peers.

U of T Idol is still looking for contestants to come out and participate. Last year’s first-place performer, Pat Simeon, won $200, studio time, a finished demo, and an interview with the Toronto radio station CIUT. If you would like to compete you can register at harthouse.ca/uoft-idol-registration. The next opportunity to perform is November 15. Hopefully, some faces from Mississauga will be there to represent our campus.

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