Orinda Idol Hits a High Note for the Seventh Year

Orinda Idol Hits a High Note for the Seventh Year

Juniors Emma Patton and Sophie Belinn performed “Drumming Song” by popular artist Florence and the Machine.

Bailey Smith, Staff Writer

Orinda Idol’s seventh annual singing competition took place Sept. 9 at the Orinda Theatre.  From Miramonte, sophomore Maritza Grillo won in the high school soloist category and sophomore Tosca Maltzman won the Audience Award.

Before the event, a panel of judges selected the finalists and runners-up that would be performing. On the day of finals, soloists and groups alike sung their hearts out on stage for the various awards.

Orinda Idol is open to talented students grades K-12. Soloists and groups each compete in categories by grade, and a combination of judge scoring and audience votes determines the winner of each category. All finalists receive gift certificates and winners receive cash prizes. The highest cash prize that competitors can be awarded is $750 for soloists in grades 9-12.

The high school soloists from Miramonte were seniors Julia Elliot and Carolyn Moore, juniors Amrita Newton, Paige Powell, Mariette Ebarle and Sophie Belinn, and sophomores Sarah Caine, Grillo, Hannah Whitbeck, and Maltzman.

Grillo sang “I Am Changing.” The judges, Matthias Montgomery, Lois Grandi, and Lisa van der Ploeg, were blown away. On Grillo’s closing note, the audience erupted into applause.

A very special award Orinda Idol offers is the Audience Award, awarded to the finalist with the most audience votes. Maltzman belted out her own version of “Feelin’ Good,” which she had been preparing for since May. “I like the message and it’s a lot of fun to sing,” Maltzman said.

Maltzman’s award is so special because she will be receiving a two-hour recording contract with Red House Studios. Although Maltzman doesn’t know what to expect from this experience, she is very excited. The Audience Award is the first award she has won participating in Orinda Idol.

“I hope to pursue [singing] in the future, it’s my favorite thing to do,” Maltzman said. Maltzman is also an actor. Her favorite playwright is Shakespeare. She has partaken in many plays and among her favorite are “The Wiz” and “Annie.”

On Sept. 9 from 1-2:15 p.m., the finalists in the group category took the stage. Judges Lois Grandi, Dyan McBride, and Mark Rennick were prepared to hear from groups Simply Sisters, Sweet Harmony, Rising Starz, and the Monday Blues in grades K-5. Fine & Sassy, Sophie & Emma, Frank and Annie,  ATC, J n J, and Urban Flare made up the middle and high school groups.

The middle and high school group category winner was Urban Flare. They were dressed in matching color schemes of black, white and red. They sang a haunting acapella version of Adele’s “Someone Like You.”

The winner in the K-5 group category was a sister act, Sweet Harmony. The girls were dressed in black sequin tank tops and charmed the audience with their powerful voices and jazzy dance routine with the song “Hit Me With A Hot Note.”

Auditions for Orinda Idol were held May 17-19. Following auditions, finalists and runners-up attended and participated in a few events that included group seminars on what makes an outstanding performance and performances at the Orinda Community Park and the Orinda Theatre Square. Some events helped the performers perfect their performances, and some were simply for the joy of singing for an audience.

On Sept. 15 the Orinda Arts Council held the after party for the finalists and their families.  The winners were invited to perform at the Orinda Car Show on Sept. 22. On Sept. 25 the winners performed at the Orinda EFO/Chamber of Commerce Dine Around Town event.

One very passionate and talented finalist of Orinda Idol is junior Amrita Newton.

“When I am on stage, the rest of the world becomes a blur and I literally feel nothing but the emotions of the song,” said Newton. “It’s probably one of the most amazing feelings out there.”

According to Newton, her family didn’t think she could sing when she was younger. In elementary school, she tried out for Orinda Idol for the first time and became a finalist, shocking her family.

“I’ve been singing since I was tiny,” said Newton. “I was known to horribly sing in the shower.” In fifth grade, Newton won Orinda Idol with the song “Orange Colored Sky,” and has won in the group category twice. For Newton, getting applause is a great relief. “You have just finished singing, you have laid all our emotions on the line,” she said.

Even though she has been doing it for years, Newton still gets butterflies. “Orinda Idol is terrifying,” said Newton. “But it’s really fun. Everybody is super-supportive and the hard work always pays off in the end. You get to see a great show.” She performs for the enjoyment of singing, not to win.

Newton describes Orinda Idol as “a place for a bunch of kids to share their passions for the whole of the East Bay.”