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Massena students ready to showcase their talents

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MASSENA - Massena High School senior Brandon Gambill has auditioned for The X Factor and will be trying out this summer for a spot on American Idol.

In between, Mr. Gambill will be showcasing his vocal talents during Monday night’s June Rocks! concert in the Massena High School auditorium.

“It’s kind of like an entryway to my career in the future, to get my foot in the door,” according to Mr. Gambill, who just returned from auditions for The X Factor.

He said there are multiple auditions in the process before hitting “the big stage on TV.” Unfortunately, he didn’t make the next rounds, but that hasn’t discouraged him as he prepares for an American Idol audition this summer in New Jersey.

“I’ve been auditioning for three years now for three different shows,” said Mr. Gambill, who has participated in every Massena High School June Rocks! and Rocktober! concert.

He also had to audition for June Rocks! Choral/Drama Director Christopher Lincoln said 65 students auditioned, but they could only take 21 because of time constraints.

“I’m no stranger to this,” Mr. Gambill said.

His advice to future performers is, “Just conquer your fears. Entertain your fans that come to see you.”

For June Rocks! participants, who are all members of the school’s Chorus Department, it’s a deviation from their normal high school fare. Unlike choral concerts or musical productions, students are going solo with a song of their choice while backed by a professional band as lights flash and a haze rolls through the auditorium.

“With 150 students in chorus, there’s no way to do rock and pop. It’s a chance for them to perform music they like, music that really speaks to them. They put a lot of energy into it,” Mr. Lincoln said.

This year’s band includes Jon Hunkins on drums, Ryan Reynolds on bass, Todd Truax on electric and acoustic guitar and Mr. Lincoln on guitars and keyboard.

“We make it like a rock show. We hire out a production,” he said, noting they are bringing in extra audio and lighting equipment, and a crew from Syracuse is assisting with the lighting.

Sophomore Laura Cook, who was in last year’s musical, will be participating in her first June Rocks! concert.

“I just really wanted to do it. I like singing,” she said.

Ms. Cook said she listened to a few songs before deciding what song to perform during Monday’s concert.

“I decided my song on the day of audition. I like it because it shares more emotion,” she said.

Because people may know the song, Ms. Cook said that makes it easier for her to perform it on stage.

“It’s easier because I know how to perform it,” she said.

Senior Collin Jacobs has been in the June Rocks! and Rocktober! concerts since they began three years ago.

“It’s good because students get to show off what they have in a genre they like. It’s fun for the audience and students,” he said.

“It’s so competitive to get into,” he added. “He gets 70 or 80 (students auditioning) and only takes 20 to 25 acts. It makes it more competitive. You have to work all that much harder.”

Mr. Jacobs said he looked at a list of possible songs before deciding on his selection.

“It was my favorite artist at the time,” he said. “It’s tough. I like to sing the way they sing, but perform it my own way and get the crowd moving my special way.”

His preparation involved “hitting the repeat on the iPod and listening over and over again,” he said.

And when it’s time to get on stage, Mr. Jacobs said, that’s when reality hits.

“Stage fright is a huge thing. It’s something else when you’re on the stage. You focus on the song,” he said.

Junior Sarah Murphy will hit the stage again on Monday after participating in last year’s Rocktober! concert.

“It’s fun to do more popular music. In Choral, you get to sing with everyone else. For this you’re featured on your own. It’s different. It’s not musical theater, it’s not classical music. It’s like singing with your friends,” she said.

Freshman Reed Chapman said he had planned to perform a particular song, but chose another instead.

“Katie Bronchetti had the same song. She suggested a song that was good with my voice,” he said.

As a first-time June Rocks! participant, Mr. Chapman said he’ll likely have a case of the jitters before getting on the stage.

“I’m sure I’ll be a little more nervous 5 minutes before. Once I get out there I’ll get used to it. I enjoy being on stage,” he said.

As a member of the school’s spring musical, Mr. Chapman said other people are there to help out. In this case, he said, “you’re by yourself.”

As he prepares to perform on Monday, he said he has balanced June Rocks! with his finals, Regents exams and sports.

“I just work through everything,” he said.

Sophomore Abbie Truax said she was looking forward to Monday night.

“It’s just a chance to perform. That’s what I like to do,” she said. “It’s really nerve wracking, but it’s great at the same time.”

Music runs in her family, she said. Her father will be in the band that night.

“My dad is a great musician. My mom was also a great musician back in high school,” she said.

Her song, Ms. Truax said, isn’t difficult to sing.

“It’s difficult to find a song I’d like to sing,” she said.

Other students performing are Katie Frego, Katie Bronchetti, Tiffany Alderson, Brooke Russell, Ken C./Abbie T., Brody LeCuyer, River Phillips, Melissa Marlowe, Emily Lambert, McKenna Lagarry, Lucas Benedict, Bonnie Lewis, Brianna Avery, Kassaundra Carron, James George and Hanna Siddon.

Tickets, which are $5, are available at the door Monday. The show starts at 7 p.m.

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