BY MANUEL C. “MANNY” CORREIRA
Legendary rhythm and blues/soul singer, Etta James, has nothing on Sara Slusarski.
The 14-year-old Mt. Hope High School freshman with a mesmerizing voice and magnetic stage presence captured the sixth annual East Bay Idol competition Thursday night at Kickemuit Middle School, in one of the closest voting contests ever.
Miss Slusarski’s rendition of Etta James’ classic recording, “At Last,” wowed the audience. Each of the judges remarked on how much power and feeling Sara generated during her performance. In general, the judges were impressed with the style and originality of every contestant.
“All of these kids did such a tremendous job,” added judge, Michael Carbone, the former Kickemuit Middle School principal who now directs the East Bay Head Start program. “There was a lot of great talent on display here tonight.”
The majority of contestants showed off their singing skills, much to the delight of those in attendance.
Miss Slusarski, who admittedly doesn’t have a voice coach and has never taken singing lessons, was ecstatic when her name was announced as this year’s East Bay Idol winner.
“I’m so happy, I can’t tell you,” she beamed. “I’ve always wanted to win this competition. “I finished in third place two years ago, but this year, I gave it everything I had. I went up against some very talented kids.”
Indeed, Miss Slusarski, who would like to become a professional singer when she gets older, beat out second place finisher and defending East Bay Idol champion Kaya Giroux. Third place finisher was Esther Watrous, while Rose Pansa and Sarah Brule finished fourth and fifth, respectively.
In winning the East Bay Idol title, Miss Slusarski, who lives in Bristol, was awarded the top prize of $250. Each of the other finalists also received cash prizes.
The East Bay Idol competition, which features contestants from the middle schools and high schools in the Bristol, Warren and Barrington area, is sponsored by the Warren Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition, and was under the direction of Ann Marie Roy.
“These kids did a superb job,” said Ms. Roy. “There’s a lot of hard work that goes into this, and these students were great. This was probably the best year ever for this event.”
The other judges for the contest included Melissa Spur, who works for the town of Warren’s Community Development office; internationally known local Portuguese/American rock band singer and performer Bethanie Maduro; Warren Police Dept. Lt. Roland Brule; Peter C. Kinder, a social worker for the Bristol/Warren Regional School District; and WPRI-TV personality Michelle Muscatello.
Master of ceremonies was the popular Alfred Travieso Jr. of Sound Force Unlimited Professional DJ Services.
Other East Bay Idol contestants included Kat Felingiere, C.J. Gerhard, Taylor Oliver, Kristen Brzozowy, Jacob Brassard, Madison White, and Dakota and Montana Jacobowitz.