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Senior Idol contestant

Seniors vie for ‘Idol’ title

on September 3, 2010

Four people sit in wait on the first day of auditions at the Richmond Memorial Auditorium, hoping for a spot in the West County 2nd Annual Senior Idol. It’s a chance to showcase their talent and perform their hand-selected pieces—a capella—to a panel of judges. They will be critiqued not only on their singing technique, but also on their ability to engage the audience with confidence and charisma.

Organized by Debbie Hernandez and Kris Lofthus of the city’s Recreation Department, the event takes after kids’ talent shows. “We thought the flip side of that is, why don’t we do some sort of senior event, model it after that TV show.”

Tuesday night, the auditions were short and heartfelt.

Local singers Fred Dycus, Rudy Fernandez, Patricia Jackson, and Margaret Perry—ages 57 to 80—chose songs that made them move.

Dycus, a returning contestant from last year, told the judges he wrote his song for his wife, Tracee. “When I was looking for a wife,” he sang, blues notes stretched out. “I wanted to improve my life.”

He twanged his voice like guitar to punctuate the melody. “You went to Yahoo!, read my profile. Daowng Daowng. You laughed and said it made you smile.”

Margaret Perry sang a lively and vigorous version of Duke Ellington’s “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore,” dressed in a sparkly top and snapping her fingers.

A seasoned competitor, Perry said she has been singing since she was three. “I have a real passion for singing,” she said. “My father played four instruments and my four brothers played guitar, piano, and harmony.” She recalled her musical childhood with fondness, thinking back to how her siblings recorded their songs.

Patricia Jackson strode to the middle of the room, clad in deep coral pink. She closed her eyes and sent forth a velvety, experimental rendition of Ella Fitzgerald’s “Summertime.” The words danced through her lips with soulful vibrato.  When the song ended, she opened her eyes, thanked the judges and met her husband in the lobby.

Jackson also performs with her husband Louis, last year’s Idol winner. “‘Unforgettable,’ we’ve done lately,” Louis says, looking at Patricia, “And we have one song, ‘Reunited,’ because we’ve reunited over the last twenty years.”

Louis and Patricia first met as children in San Francisco, she in third grade, and he in fourth.  Patricia’s family moved across the Bay, and they didn’t see each other again until high school, when they fell in love.  Then, heartbreak. Patricia dumped him when he left for the Marine Corps in 1965. “You have your one big heartbreak and mine was Pat,” said Louis.  “She really broke mine into little pieces, too.”

Decades later, in 1990, Patricia was on her way to the Oakland Coliseum to see Nelson Mandela speak. Among the crowd of nearly 60,000, Patricia happened across Louis’ sisters, who then prodded him to call her.  “We just picked up right where we left off,” said Louis. “Can you believe that?”

Not everyone who auditions has to be a gifted singer. In fact, Lofthus recalls that some people who auditioned last year had never been on stage. “”We’re looking for, obviously, the quality of their voices,” he said, “to see if they can carry the tune and stay within a range. Not the perfect range, just a range.”

What won Louis Jackson the title last year was not just that he could sing, but that he really performed. “He controlled the stage, he controlled the audience,” said Lofthus, who was a judge last year. “They all went crazy.”

Twelve finalists will compete for the title of ‘Senior Idol’ at the Richmond Memorial Auditorium on September 17 at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $5 at the door and all ages are welcome.

Richmond Rec’s Upcoming Senior Events

  • Senior “Idol”: Sep. 17
  • Senior Winter Ball: Dec. 11
  • Senior Night Out: May 2011
  • Sunday Tea Dance: Monthly
  • Click here for more information
    |2010 Senior Idol Finalists

    • Cindy Beitmen
    • Barbara Cantrell
    • Clark “Etsy” Cochran
    • Fred Dycus
    • Rudy Fernandez
    • Patricia Jackson
    • Margaret Perry
    • Judith Rogers
    • Jackie Thompson
    • Isaac Tiongson
    • Corazon Tiongson
    • Mary Williams

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