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January 30, 2008 > Bay Area Teens Show "Idol"- worthy Talent

Bay Area Teens Show "Idol"- worthy Talent

By Emma Victoria G. Blanco

Upon entering the Union City Kennedy Teen Center, one couldn't help but sense the excitement and anticipation in the main activity room. A recorded episode of American Idol played on the TV (perhaps to give the contestants some inspiration). In one corner of the room, four teen girls huddled together and appeared to be practicing for their audition. Others preferred to let out some of their pent-up energy by playing on the foosball and air hockey tables. Others seemed content to wait it out quietly.

Tina Buck, a student at Fremont's American High School, sat at a table and concentrated on the lyrics to Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston's "When You Believe." Contestants auditioned in groups of three; Buck was the third contestant in the first group. When asked how she felt when she entered the audition room, Buck answered, "I was confident, but when the other contestants sang, I was, like, oh no." Buck was also admittedly nervous because her song was a last minute selection. The first two contestants, Aaron Hinton and Adolfo Hernandez, received their "golden tickets" and will return for Round Two. Buck wasn't so lucky. The judges seemed to enjoy her audition and commented that all she needed to relax and to engage her audience. They encouraged her to try again and return the following Friday (Day Two of Round One). Unfortunately, Buck's schedule prevented her from auditioning again.

"I thought the contestants were all good, some better than others but they all were good. Common mistakes that a lot of the contestants [made] were not making eye contact and [not] singing to their audience," stated Jumoke Hill, the competition's originator. He and the other judges, Marissa Vera (Supervisor with the Union City Youth Commission) and Monica Reyes, were encouraging with their comments to each of the contestants. But unlike their celebrity counterparts, this trio offered only positive and constructive criticisms. Perhaps it's because, as Vera summed up, "The contestants have a lot of heart and much talent."

Round One of the Union City Teen Idol competition was a success. A total of 26 teens (12 - 17 years old) auditioned over two days. 18 will return for Round Two. "It was quite impressive that we had a lot of young adults come from all over the bay area," stated Vera. Though aspects of the audition process were similar to that of American Idol's (a separate audition room, a three-judge panel, and the "golden ticket," there were apparent differences as well, such as the auditioning in groups of three. Hill stated, "I decided to put them in three's because sometimes hearing the person next to you will give you that extra push to do better. Everyone is fighting for the same spot and sometimes it's good to know who your competition is."

Round Two will again take place at the Union City Kennedy Teen Center; 4 pm on Friday, February 1st. This time contestants are permitted to bring an instrumental track in CD format (performing to the tracks with words is not allowed). Judges will select 10 talented individuals to return for the Finals on February 8th. If Round Two is anything like Round One, then we're all in for a treat at the Finals, "I was amazed [at] how much talent there was; so many young teens with voices that can outshine some of the best out in the music world today," says Reyes.

For more information, call (510) 675-5276 or visit

Union City Teen Idol Competition
Round Two
Friday, Feb. 1
4 p.m.

Round Three/Finals
Friday, Feb. 8
6 p.m.

William C. May Jr. Teen Center
1200 J St., Union City
(510) 675-5276

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