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Rising Stars auditions begin

Wednesday, September 7, 2011
Digicel Rising stars judges Michael Salickram, left, Glenda Collens and Johnny Gonsalves deliberate about a contestant's performance.

August 27 was a crucial chapter in the story of the lives of many hopefuls who lined the walkway of the MovieTowne, Port-of-Spain balcony. Hundreds of singers came, dreams in hand, to perform before judges, who, often with a single word, let them know whether they had what it took to become the next Digicel Rising Stars winner. Although the anticipation was thick, an obvious camaraderie could be felt throughout the audition space. Potential contestants reassured one another, taking advantage of the shared experience to support each other throughout the day. Spontaneous sing-alongs broke out as renditions of songs like Bob Marley’s No Woman No Cry and John Legend’s Everybody Knows could be heard throughout the venue. The encouragement of older, more experienced performers was surely a comfort to 17-year-old Tenisha Jacob, a student of Chaguanas Junior Secondary with her eye on the prize. “This competition could make a big difference in my life,” she said. As a singer/songwriter with dreams of following in the footsteps of her idol, CC Winans, Jacob longs for the chance to show the world her talents. “I love everything about singing, the feelings, the expression, everything.” Like her gospel idol, she wants to use her voice to inspire people to be who they are.

Other performers, having auditioned before, had a bit of a leg-up on the competition. For these seasoned performers, the nerves were more manageable because they knew what to expect. One such veteran, Malecia Harrikissoon (Star), has been auditioning since season one. The challenge of trying out and the support of her family, she said, kept her coming back. “My mother always told me that when I failed I must try and try again. My aunt would tell me to just wish upon another star.” Her nieces were also with her in spirit, as evidenced by a stamp depicting two little stars on her thumbnail. For her one shot, Harrikissoon chose to perform I Believe in You and Me by Whitney Houston, an artiste who has made perseverance into an art. Roger Johnson has auditioned five times, simply for the love of performing. Making it to the top ten last year has only strengthened his drive to win. This year, with his wife and family rooting for him, he hopes to make it into the final. Listing John Legend, Luther Vandross and Ella Andall amongst his favourite artistes, johnson declared his inspiration to be none other than himself. “Everything I do, I feel me. I can only be me.”

This year, Jeannine Clarke has bypassed the usual preliminary concerns. After wowing judges, Glenda Collens, Michael Salickram and Johnny Gonsalves with her initial performance, the 24-year-old vocalist was fast-tracked straight to the finals. “I was so excited!” she gushed. After five years of auditioning and making it to the top ten twice, this was truly a dream come true, especially as she almost did not audition.
“My parents didn’t really want me to come, they wanted me to study my responsibilities,” she said, referring to her two-and-a-half year-old daughter, Chyanne Marie. In fact, her first trip to the top ten was while she was pregnant with little Chyanne, so, in a sense, it is almost as if she is coming full circle. “Chyanne will be screaming for mommy on the show,” she predicted. As surprised and thrilled as she was to have been fast-tracked, Clarke is no newcomer to performing. She began singing at three, “before I could even talk properly”, performing at six, and she was writing songs by the time she was ten. She has been with local choir, the Love Movement, for 17 years and she will begin performing in the Lion King at NAPA on September 15. Where will she find the time between all the rehearsals to compete in Digicel Rising Stars, too? “Just call me. I’ll be there,” she said, with a smile.


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