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Michael Odokara-Okigbo ’12 takes the top prize in Dartmouth Idol

dartmouth idol finalists

The six Dartmouth Idol finalists closed the show with a group performance of "We Are Family." From left: Kaitlyn Sheehan ’09, Courtney Davis ’09 (second place), Jamie Hwang '10 (third place), Kevin Oh ’12, Andrew Kang ’11, and Michael Odokara-Okigbo '12 (first place). Click here to view video of their performances. (Photo by Kawakahi Kaeo Amina ’09)

Six contestants slid across vocal ranges and the stage to showcase their talents in the second annual Dartmouth Idol finals on March 6. Based on the format of the hit show American Idol, Dartmouth's take substitutes the snarky judges with a spirit of inclusion and celebration.

Danny Gobaud '10 did his hometown of Las Vegas, Nev., proud as the event's comedic host. Through numerous costume changes (with accessories such as pink elbow pads) he kept the mood light as the idols delivered one strong performance after another.

But in the end, it was Michael Odokara-Okigbo '12's rendition of a medley of Marc Anthony and Prince hits that brought the crowd to its feet and tipped the audience vote in his favor.

Odokara-Okigbo, of Portland, Maine, says that participating in Idol taught him "the importance of connecting with the song-how the audience can tell how which songs you are connecting with. You have to put emotion into it and sing every word."

"I want to challenge the vocalists to stretch," says Walt Cunningham, Idol's musical director and director of the Dartmouth College Gospel Choir. Singing in Idol is a learning experience; Cunningham coaches the contestants and helps them find their strengths as performers.

Jamie Hwang '10 says, "I've learned that I have much more courage in me than I had ever thought." Hwang placed third in the finals, building on her experience in the 2008 competition, in which she advanced to the semi-finals. "Getting up on that stage and singing for a huge audience is not an easy thing to do. But I found that I CAN do it. And I loved it," she says.

Cunningham's other aim is to bring together students from across the campus to perform together and "play in the same sandbox. So many talented people come together for this. The goal is a program that is both diverse and compelling, and that students are involved in the process."

Forty students auditioned for the competition, and sixteen moved on to the semi-finals from which the final six were chosen. Students played in the live band for the performance, and three-Jamie Berk '11, Alex Cook '09, and Dana Daugherty '10-served as judges, delivering feedback and suggestions to the contestants.

Odokara-Okigbo says that he had a lot of support from fellow members of the Dartmouth Aires (an a capella group) and the varsity crew team. "I enjoyed meeting the other singers. It was really fun, anyone and everyone should audition," he says.

By SARAH MEMMI 

 

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Last Updated: 1/14/10