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Five Local Voices For Hope:
Young singers compete for scholarship

Mar 27, 2009

Posted by Interactive Desk on Mar 27 2009, 10:41 AM

By Susan Cornell,   Special to the Times:

Five local teens are among the 17 finalists chosen to participate in the live finals audition and concert for the 2009 Voices For Hope Scholarship for Community Outreach through music.

Voices for Hope is a community outreach and public education program of Mystic-based Local United Network to Combat Hunger (LUNCH), a mix of arts, education, and outreach encouraging kids to use their talent to produce positive social actions. The winner will receive a $500 scholarship and the opportunity for professional recording and performance.

“The finalists, from as far as New York and New Jersey, will audition live at the East Hartford Community Cultural Center on Saturday, April 4, and then perform together in the evening with LUNCH in a Harry Chapin tribute concert to benefit programs for kids with special needs,” explains Bill Pere, LUNCH’s founder and
executive director.

The local finalists are Elizabeth Brayman, 14, and Ellen Petersen, 15, Mystic; Mackenzie Brayman, 12, North Stonington; Julia Burgos, 16, Stonington; and Paulo Rouquayrol, 17, Ledyard.

Hopeful 11- to 19-year-old singers from all over Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, and New Jersey submitted application packages to Voices for Hope, now in its third year.

While Pere has never met most of the finalists, he commented, “I certainly look forward to meeting them all on April 4. Of the three local finalists whom I have met previously [Julia, Ellen, and Elizabeth], I know that they are all exemplary students, and more important, exemplary citizens who give us hope for a bright future.”

In the submission package, each contestant described their motivations for participating in the program. LUNCH co-founder, recording artist, and vocal educator Kay Pere said, “The contestants are all very
inspiring and articulate. They have a fresh attitude, and give us all hope for the future.”

Mackenzie Brayman thinks the competition will be a “neat experience.” Said Brayman, “I’m so excited because it’s my first competition where it’s just me singing.”

After Brayman’s mother researched the program online and told her daughter about it, “I decided it was a really great program because it’s singing for people with special needs, and I think that’s just wonderful and decided it would be something really fun to do,” Mackenzie said.

Paulo Rouquayrol decided to participate because he “saw in them the caring nature that I wish every human being would possess.” He added, “When I hear about a program that is doing good for our society, I always try to help out and it just happened that I could do so with my biggest passion, singing. I am always looking for ways to help my community and this was one more thing to add to my list. Bill Pere is a great man and he has a great heart, and I am honored that I can work with him.”

Elizabeth Brayman said she is both “extremely excited and somewhat nervous to audition in the finals for Voices For Hope on April 4.” She decided to get involved “because Special Voices and LUNCH are incredible organizations that exist only to help people in need and I would love to be a spokesperson for that,” said Brayman, adding, “I think that by having a spokesperson between the ages of 11 and 19 the younger population will pay more attention to helping other people, and personally I think that’s a great concept!”

Previous winners have performed at the Bushnell, the Granite Theater, and Shubert Theater. And, under the Peres’ guidance, previous winners have released individual recordings for distribution through iTunes. Last year’s second and place local winners, Samantha and Stefanie Schaufler of Westerly, released their own CDs.

Of the four songs recorded and released by VFH winners, Bill Pere wrote three (“SASS,” “The Dream Held in Your Eyes,” and “Jump Start”), and Kay Pere co-wrote one (“Angels on Horseback”). Bill did the production and coaching sessions for the three he wrote, and Kay and Bill both worked with vocalist Julie Lavery of Massachusetts on “Angels on Horseback.”

“After this year’s winner is determined we will record a couple of additional songs and release a whole VFH CD,” he said.

The concert, which will feature the 2009 finalists along with the LUNCH ensemble, will be held on Saturday, April 4 at 7 p.m. at the East Hartford Community Cultural Center, and will be a tribute to the late songwriter-activist Harry Chapin. Proceeds will benefit Special Voices, an organization that provides programs for kids with special needs. Tickets are $10 and are available online through the box office at

Originally published in the Mystic Times and at


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