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Raising Voices in Harmony, Not in Anger: Competition to help homeless will give youths a major break

By Erica Gradecki
Published on 5/11/2006

Mystic - Move over, “American Idol” – another competition is offering singers a shot at fame and glory.

Voices for Hope is a new partnership that is organizing a contest to find eight finalists who will “raise (their voices) to help end homelessness.”

The partnership consists of the Mystic-based Local United Network to Combat Hunger (LUNCH) and New Generations Ministries in New Haven, the Bushnell Center for Performing Arts in Hartford and “Brooklyn,” one of the longest-running Broadway productions of the season. “'Brooklyn' played for nine months while looking for something to benefit the homeless,” said Lauren Doll, a New York consultant to the popular Broadway musical. “I feel this will be a success no matter what, as the money will go to beneficiaries to help people who are less fortunate.”

According to Bill Pere, the founder and executive director of LUNCH, contestants ages 12 to 18 from anywhere in Connecticut are eligible for the competition. Requirements include an entry form, a tape or CD demo recording of the contestant's voice and a $50 entry fee. All monies collected are distributed between New Generations and LUNCH to help combat hunger and homelessness.

“We wanted to specifically target young people old enough to have maturity and an understanding of the issues of hunger and homelessness,” Pere said. “There are no videos or photos sent in, just vocal.”

The judging for the competition will go through a three-tier process, with all contestants being rated first by local music leaders who will choose 25 semi-finalists. The second round will have those 25 narrowed down to 15 finalists, and those will be judged by “Brooklyn” director Jeff Calhoun and its music supervisor, John McDaniel, as well as Jason Norfleet, a local gospel DJ.

For the last tier of judging, the final 15 must give a live performance at the Bushnell in Hartford in front of LUNCH founders Bill and Kay Pere, as well as an agent from New York and L.A.'s top talent agencies on Saturday, June 3. From these, eight winners and two alternates will be chosen.

“The winners will be performing once (on stage with the cast of 'Brooklyn,'),” said Doll. “Each will sort of get their own time to shine.”

The winners will be singing “Hearts Behind These Hands,” a finale number with the cast.

“The winners will also make a compilation CD with songs that'll be chosen for them,” Pere added.

“Brooklyn” will be opening live at the Bushnell the week of June 20. The musical is about a group of street-corner storytellers who tell the story of a young girl searching for fame and the father she never knew.

For more information on the Voices for Hope competition, visit or


Originally Published May 11 2006, The Mystic Times

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