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Dusten has been a member of the Chautauqua Star staff since March, 2010. He is a native of California, graduating from St. Bonaventure University in 2007.

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Chautauqua Idol 2011 Preview
Published Tuesday, June 21st, 2011 in Dusten Rader

BEMUS POINT, NY — SE93 and Bemus Bay Pops are hard at work preparing for the upcoming Chautauqua Idol. A slew of great themes, local talent, new judges, a youth showcase and an unforgettable finale await those who decide to stop by the Floating Stage this season.

The dates for this year's shows are scheduled at 6:30 p.m. on June 27, July 11, 18, 25, August 1 with the finale on the 15th.

The contestants this year are: Ashlie Sperry, Jon Osterdahl, Elizabeth Lucas, Mike Bidney, Julie Haight, Stephanie Higbee and Emily Blackwood of Jamestown, Brent Ball of Findley Lake, Dallas Marsh of Kennedy, Dan Shoots of Fredonia, Jaala Haskins of New Castle and Samantha DeJesus of Portland.

The program is free to those wishing to sit on Lakeside Drive or on the shoreline. But, in order to sit on the waterfront on the Italian Fisherman property a ticket must be purchased online or the night of the show. For more information on the tickets visit

Shot of stage from back. (Submitted Photo)

The season will be kicked off with SE93 Night on June 27. According to host Andrew Hill, for the past two years the participants have performed on the first night with no fear of being eliminated. However, this year the judges will eliminate two people. “There will be little room for mistakes on the first night,” he said. “Our participants have chosen a good variety of songs for the first week that they picked from the SE93 playlist.”

The themes each night of this year's Chautauqua Idol are a combination of new ideas and classic favorites. The first performance will feature Beatles and John Lennon on July 11. The theme was very popular with the singers and audience in 2009 so it will make a return again this year. “A lot of great music came from 'Across the Pond',” said Hill. “From our past experience this has been a fun way to get the stage rocking and getting the audience to sing along with the classic sound.”

July 18 will feature a special treat for guests. “We wanted to do Michael Jackson Night last year but the media/entertainment world was overloaded with tributes to the pop singer,” Hill said. “So, we decided to push it back to this season. Michael Jackson is one of the greatest writers and performers of all time. His music has inspired many of the music industry’s top performers of today.”

(Submitted Photo)

Latin American Night on July 25 will showcase a number of great performers with Latin American Roots. For example: Ricky Martin, Jennifer Lopez, Marc Anthony and Gloria Estefan. “I'm sure we will see a good mix of upbeat performances as well as classic ballads,” Hill said.

Hat Pick Night on August 1 will feature a little bit of everything. “Each singer will randomly select two themes out of a hat,” said Hill. “They will choose from Country, Classic Rock, Oldies or Adult Standards such as Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald and Dean Martin. Our singers will perform two songs each this night.”

The finale will culminate on August 15 where the final three singers will perform two songs. The judges will pick one song for them and the singer will get to choose the other they wish to perform.

In order to narrow down the number of performers there were two auditions this year. The judges selected twelve singers to participate. According to Hill, there were good singers that did not make the cut.

The Floating Stage at the Italian Fisherman. (Photo by Dusten Rader)

“We have big expectations out of those that were selected,” he said. “In the past we have seen that some of our best performers from the audition process have fouled up during the first show. So, it's obvious that nerves play a big role in this program. We have thousands of people watching, a live stage band and an outside atmosphere. It's intimidating for even the most talented singer.”

The band that will be performing with the contestants is John Cross and The Babalu Band. “Each year I feel I understate how amazing this group is,” said Hill. “They really do help make the show the success that is has been. They work well with the singers and are true professionals in taking very difficult themes and audio cuts and transcribing them into a great sound for the four piece band. John, Mark Alpaugh, Jim Foti and Jim Karaponsto are great guys and I'm happy to see them all return for our eighth summer.”

The Chautauqua Idol also wouldn't be possible without the four judges. Guests should remember Tim Edborg from last year. He is back for his fifth year and will be Senior Judge. “Tim is very passionate about music, has a great background and is very supportive to our singers on and off the stage,” said Hill.

Edborg will be joined by three new faces this year. “We had more than 25 professionals from the local community apply to volunteer on our panel. We think this feedback is a great reflection on the popularity of our program,” Hill said.

Shults donated a new Camero convertible. The proceeds will benefit the WCA Hospital's new Emergency Room. (Photo by Dusten Rader)

Michelle Paterniti has been actively involved in music and theater since attending Jamestown High School, winning several awards and scholarships for both music and theater.

Patricia Newman is from Buffalo and has a great history in music, including extensive voice training at St. Paul’s' Cathedral Choir, in which she had the opportunity to sing with Metropolitan Opera Company, Sheas Performing Arts and Artpark.

Andrew Minton grew up in Falconer and has taught music in Chautauqua County for 11 years, the past eight at Sherman Central School. He has also taught for several years at the Infinity Arts Program. Plus, he has performed with the The Porcelain Bus Drivers, Mad Dingo, DB and the Funk Machine. He continues to teach music in a variety of settings and writes.

If that wasn't enough to convince weary readers the Junior Idol gives locals another reason to come out and support local talent. Since the show began in 2004 Hill has had constant feedback that SE93 should do a 'Junior Idol' competition. “I think about it each year, but always decide that it is not in our best interest to judge children,” said Hill. “They should be supported and encouraged to always try their best and I want no part in telling a child they are not good enough. However, in discussion with The Bemus Bay Pops we decided that we could showcase area talent during our program this year, in a non competitive way.”

Standing left to right: Katie Turnquist, Laura Pfleugler, Karlee Johnson, Justin Gloss, Jordan Ferraro, Rachel Querreveld, Morgan Parnitzke Sitting left to right Amie Adams, Micaela Young, Tyler Stimson and Alora Sherbert. (Submitted Photo)

So, each High School was contacted and invited to spotlight a student in the SE93 Chautauqua Lake Idol Junior Showcase. Each show will feature two special performances. “This is a nice way to show our audience what amazing talent we have in the area, and, hopefully can see them performing at future shows as a contestant,” said Hill.

For the Grand Finale on August 15th, all 11 students will be performing together a song from “Glee” under the direction of Mrs. Jennifer Sears, Music Director with Frewsburg High School.

For more information on the show, including pictures and biographies of the contestants, host, band, judges and more visit or Like them on Facebook.

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