Michelle Oliveri crowned Westport's Voice



A memorable rendition of "At Last" was the finishing touch for Fall River's Michelle Oliveri and proved more than enough Saturday for audience and coaches to vote her the winner of Westport's Voice.

A Fall River server who teaches private voice lessons and studied jazz vocal performance at UMass Dartmouth, Ms. Oliveri edged high school senior Jessica Thibault for the title.

Ms. Oliveri, who lists the likes of Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Tracy Chapman, Otis Redding and Nat King Cole among her favorites, described her musical strength as an "ability to sing with deep emotional content and enthusiasm." The audience clearly agreed.

She last performed in public back in August at the Ugly Gallery in New Bedford and said it was Blakeslee Snyder who convinced her to enter Westport's Voice, a fund raiser for Westport's Dianne B. Snyd

er Tennis Complex. The tennis center was built to honor Dianne Snyder who was a flight attendant aboard one of the planes that crashed into New York's twin towers on 9/11.

"Blakeslee Snyder told me to audition and I said "of course!"

To overcome the nerves going into the competition she said, "I will be telling my mind to be quiet as I take a deep breath and do what I do best."

She liked the format, she said, because, "I get to sing whatever I want. I love this opportunity and I love sharing my voice and showing people what I do. Preparing is equally as important as showing. If you don't prepare you have nothing to show."

Held at White's of Westport and emceed by Jim Mullins (back by popular demand after his work at Dancing With the

Westport Stars, the event was loosely modeled after the hit NBC television show 'The Voice.'

From about 30 who had tried out several weeks ago, 16 made it to Saturday's show where they were divided into four teams of four by the coaches — Blakeslee Snyder, Kelsey Jacobsen, Freddie Feliciano and Ted Boudria.

After short opening solos, the teams sang together in a group face-off.

Team Ted — Mia Rapoza, Kelsey DeGouveia, Hallie Manchster and Julie Reitzas)  — sang Etta James' "Damn Your Eyes."

Team Blakeslee —Jessica Thibault, Sean Raidonaitis, Jacquelyn Legendre and Charles Noversa — sang the Beatles' "Come Together."

Team Freddie — Danielle Haskett, Michelle Oliveri, Evan Kinnane and Julia Whelan — sang Billy Joel "Piano Man."

And Team Kelsey — Cassandra Furtado, Steve Medeiros, Jada Vidinha, and Catherine Noversa — sang "Life is a Highway."

Emerging as the four finalists, in addition to Ms. Oliveri and Ms. Thibault, were Kelsey DeGouveia (student) and Catherine Noversa (teacher at Diman Vocational).

"It was a fabulous evening," said Lisa MacMaster, one of the event's organizers. "Once again our master of ceremonies, Jim Mullins, kept the evening active, timely and fun.  The coaches had a blast and were stymied about whom to ultimately select as their finalist — such tough decisions."

"Lafrance Hospitality couldn't have been more accommodating in assisting with recreating The Voice stage setting (and) just a fabulous full venue overall. Special thanks to all of our sponsors for their support, and especially our DJ George and our four coaches who all contributed with their musical equipment, stage prep and overall expertise to make for a an absolutely perfect show."

Ms.Oliveri took home a $500 first prize while Ms. Thibault  won $100. All finalists received commemorative trophies, and winning coach Freddie Feliciano received the coveted coaches trophy.


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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.