PDX Teen Idol culminates at Reed College

Even though this program didn’t get a lot of press, see how this unique‚ and successful‚ program positively influenced thousands of teenagers in the greater Portland area‚

Leandra Stanley, a 16-year-old De La Salle High junior and 18-year-old Jordan Thompson from Hillsboro touch up their makeup before they head onstage to sing in the final round of PDX Teen Idol.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Since the competition started in March, 266 talented teenagers, from four Portland area counties, have expressed themselves through music, hoping to be named Portland’s “Teen Idol”.

At the PDX Teen Idol Semifinals in May, the field of 26 entrants was narrowed to ten finalists who performed before a cheering and energized crowd that packed Reed College’s Kaul Auditorium on June 16.

Before the program, we stepped backstage and greeted the nervous contestants. A spirit of camaraderie, reminiscent of the final day at summer camp, pervaded the dressing room.

The judges, Portland City Commissioner Dan Saltzman; Michael Allen Harrison, composer, musician and record producer; Solid State Radio 970 talk show star, musician and rock historian Rick Emerson; Scotty J., Radio 970; Portland musician (Dirty Martini) Stephanie Schneiderman and  Tami Milkes, judge coordinator sit before a full house at Reed College’s Kaul Auditorium.

A professionally produced show
Starting at 7 p.m., these top ten musical teens stepped on a professionally-illuminated stage and were accompanied by top-flight live band and backup singers. Only network TV cameras were missing from this expertly-produced show.

Seated along tables in front of the stage were the judges: professional musicians, radio personalities, 2006 Mrs. Oregon, and Portland City Commissioner Dan Saltzman.

After each finalist sang their first of two numbers, the judges commented on the performance and assigned scores.

Listening to her belt out “Hopelessly Devoted” and “Chain of Fools”, it was difficult to believe outer East Portland’s Da Vinci Arts School student, Samantha Hooper, is only 13 years old.

As the contestants were changing costumes after the first round, one of the judges, Stephanie Schneiderman of the regional band, Dirty Martini, rocked the house with two well-received songs.

Performers earn standing ovation
At the conclusion of the second round, runners took the judges’ scoring sheets, sealed in envelopes, to Portland Parks & Recreation accountant Cassie Chain for tallying.

Jordan Thompson made her way from tryouts in Hillsboro to become one of ten finalists in the PDX Teen Idol competition‚ did she win? Read on …

From the bleachers to the front row, the crowd gave thunderous applause during a standing ovation for the seven of ten finalists who weren’t chosen to advance to the final round.

Finally, each of the top three singers performed a song‚ composed specifically for this competition, by Portland music pros Keith Schreiner, Jen Folker, and Megan Hope ‚Äì entitled “Who I Am”.

16-year-old Josephine Woolington, hailing from Wilson High, sang “Where You Lead” and “Cry Me a River” well enough to earn her the second-place title.

Milwaukie High School’s Moorea Masa, 15, came in third place singing “Can’t Hurry Love” and “I am Ready for Love”.

The envelope, please!
After the final round, the audience members and the judges cast their votes. Milwaukie High School’s Moorea Masa, age 15, came in third; and 16-year-old Josephine Woolington, hailing from Wilson High, placed second.

The title of 2007 PDX Teen Idol went to 18-year-old Hillsboro native Jordan Thompson. “I’m so excited!” she told us, as she autographed programs for a crowd of admirers. “It was simply the best experience for all of us. We met really great people. And, I was able to do what I love‚ sing and perform.”

18-year-old Jordan Thompson took the grand prize‚ besting more than 250 other entrants‚ to be named Portland’s Teen Idol‚ with her polished performances of “Before He Cheats” popularized by Carrie Underwood, and “Alone”‚ a hit by Heart.

Her mom, Samantha Green, could hardly contain her excitement. “She deserves it. It is something she’s been working toward for a long time. She’s a special girl. Finally, her hard work is paying off for her.”

A new Parks Bureau annual event
The Portland City Commissioner in charge of Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R), Dan Saltzman, said he was proud to be part of the program.

“This event has engaged teenagers through out the city. Creating programs like PDX Teen Idol, and extending community center hours, are great examples of what we can do to engage young people in positive activities throughout the city.” Saltzman told us.

Portland Parks & Recreation Southeast Services Manager, Jeff Milkes welcomes hundreds of cheering supports and family members to the first PDX Teen Idol final competition.

PP&R Southeast Services Manager, Jeff Milkes, credited the program’s success to parks bureau coordinators Megan Hope and Natalie Caminiti. The entire list of credits, including many people who volunteered hundreds of hours, filled an entire page in the official program.

“I was amazed by the high level of talent we saw,” commented Milkes. “This will be an annual event. We look forward to even more participation as we reach out more to the communities. We hope to involve all the park and recreation agencies in the four-county area.”

Investing in the city’s youth
Milkes said the program’s budget was about $12,000. “We think the benefit is well worth the cost,” he told us after the event. “It provides positive alternatives for our young people.”

During the week following the competition, we asked Multnomah County Department of Community Justice spokesman Robb Freda-Cowie if he agreed with Milkes’ assessment.

“We know that programs that engage kids in positive activities,” commented Freda-Cowie, “helps them build connections with their community and discover positive outlets for their energies. This helps keep them out of our juvenile justices system.”

Freda-Cowie added that the PDX Teen Idol program budget cost no more than would keeping ten teens people‚ in trouble with the law‚ locked up for four days.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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