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Rocktober allows Massena students to showcase vocal talents

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MASSENA - Twenty-four performers - two teachers and 22 students from Massena High School - will showcase their vocal talents when they take to the high school auditorium stage Wednesday night for Rocktober.

Seventeen of them will be performing solos, while the others perform duets or, in one case, sing as a trio during concert that allows the students to choose their own music and style it for their performance, which is backed by a professional band as lights flash and a haze rolls through the auditorium.

Senior McKenna Lagarry has been performing in both Rocktober and June Rocks concerts since she was a sophomore. She’s also active in other school musical activities such as the spring musical, show choir and select groups.

“It’s really different,” she said of Rocktober. “Basically you’re performing like famous people perform. The students must select a song to use for an audition to secure a spot in the event, and that’s not always easy, Ms. Lagarry said.

“I like picking songs that are different, that nobody is going to pick,” she said.

So she took her iPod and skipped through the songs on it until she found one that would fit the bill.

Unlike other organized school groups, students who audition for and receive a spot in Rocktober spend time practicing on their own.

“It shouldn’t be hard if you enjoy the song you’re singing,” Ms. Lagarry said. “You’re on your own. You basically practice it anytime you can and make sure you memorize it.”

The thought of being on alone on a stage in front of a packed house can be intimidating at first, she said.

“The first couple of times I looked straight ahead,” Ms. Lagarry said.

Kristen Canales, Danielle Fleury and Olivia Douglas will be performing together on Wednesday night, a natural fit for the trio.

“We’re kind of inseparable,” Ms. Canales said.

Together, they had to decide what song they were going to sing on the stage.

“We just needed a song that fit three people,” Ms. Douglas said.

“We’ve all done it,” Ms. Canales said.

Working on the song as a group rather than solo posed some challenges in rehearsals. They were able to get together “once a week max” to practice, according to Ms. Fleury.

“It’s very difficult to get together,” Ms. Douglas said.

But working together is nothing new for the three seniors.

“We’ve always been duets,” Ms. Fleury said.

Even as a group, Ms. Canales, Ms. Fleury and Ms. Douglas say it can still be a “nerve-wracking” experience eon the stage.

“I think as first you’re scared. Then you have fun with it,” Ms. Fleury said.

“You try not to think about the crowd,” Ms. Douglas said.

It’s worth it in the end, though, they said.

“It’s exciting,” Ms. Douglas said.

“It’s fun to go on the stage. It’s cool for all three of us to be together,” Ms. Fleury said.

Senior Ken Chapman will be performing in his final Rocktober concert. He’s been involved with it from year one, as well as every June Rocks concert.

“There’s not really another feeling like being up there by yourself. You feed off the crowd. I love the fact that you can work with the crowd,” he said.

Mr. Chapman said one of the difficult parts is finding a song that fits both the performer and the crowd.

“You really have to find both. You have to consider what the crowd likes and you have to pick a song that suits your voice,” and not one that makes a person “sound like a dying cat,” he said.

Mr. Chapman’s musical experience includes participation in chorus since the elementary school, as well as all select groups such as the men’s ensemble and show choir. But he says he looks forward to the Rocktober and June Rocks events.

“It’s really being on stage and being able to sing a song you chose yourself. You have creative freedom. It’s one of the few opportunities you have to do solo work,” he said.

Senior Emily Lambert will be making another appearance on stage, as will senior Sarah Murphy. Ms. Lambert has been participating in Rocktober and June Rocks since her sophomore year, and Ms. Murphy was in Rocktober and June Rocks last year.

Both students said finding a song for Wednesday’s performance was a little difficult.

“I had trouble finding one I liked doing on the first audition,” Ms. Lambert said, but later found one that suited her singing.

“It took me a while to find my tune. You want to find something that suits your voice,” Ms. Murphy said.

She found one that fit the bill on YouTube, but she said it was “too electronic to perform on stage.” However, she added, the artist had also recorded an acoustic version, which she’s singing on Wednesday.

Like other performers, both women say they’re into the music scene at school, participating in everything from band and chorus to the musical and Harmonettes.

And like the other performers, they say Rocktober gives them a new appreciation of being on stage.

“At first it was kind of difficult. Now the experience is definitely a thrill,” Ms. Lambert said.

“I’ve been doing children’s theater players since I was little and singing in church. Once you’re on stage, you kind of forget you’re the only one there,” Ms. Murphy said.

Wednesday’s concert begins at 7 p.m. The doors open at 6:20 p.m., and admission is $5.

Choral Director Chris Lincoln said that, in addition to the music, they’ll be giving away a free iPod to a lucky guest. Every ticket stub will be placed into a drawing, and they’ll draw the winner’s name during the show and present the iPod to that person on stage.

They’re also teaming up with Shane Halladay’s Tech Prep program to help raise funds for the Susan B. Komen Foundation. Mr. Lincoln said any extra proceeds beyond their costs for the show will be donated to the foundation.

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