Friends, family and supportive students made up an encouraging and interactive audience Saturday evening for 10 contestants — many who were graduates of Davis High School — who were vying for the title of Davis Community Idol.
The contenders were Leslie Cooper, Tim Mascarinas, Julia Hills, Jillian Kimsey, Steve Harvey, Annie Slabach, Don Deem, Katy Zaragoza-Smith, Matthew Lawson and Aviel Haberman. A crowd of vastly different characters, these singers ranged from Hills’ prim high heels to Lawson’s bare feet, from Harvey’s punny rap to Deem’s solemn ballad.
Deem’s mellow baritone proved worthy of the first-place prize. For the people’s choice, Haberman, with her flawlessly executed runs, was declared the winner.
An enthusiast of the arts, Deem has been actively singing since the age of 6. With a daughter who won Davis High Idol in 2008, he considers the high school music program of vital importance, and believes performing in the Community Idol competition is a great way to give support to the arts.
For Deem’s fifth time competing, he chose the song “A Thousand Years” by Christina Perri, which he first heard on the popular TV show, “Glee.”
“I’ll admit it, I’m a Gleek. (The song) has been my alarm for the past year, and it’s right in my range; I just really love the song,” Deem said.
Possessing a low and rich voice, the song’s string instruments complemented Deem’s impeccable intonation. Starting out with a reflective and quiet demeanor, he then proceeded to draw the crowd in with his confident stage presence. Judge Chris Lee, a Davis High teacher, praised him for his believable performance and good lower tone control.
Also a member of the DHS faculty was young Mascarinas. A teacher’s assistant to Choir Director Karen Gardias, he playfully blames the choir students for persuading him to perform. John Legend’s “All of Me,” his competition song, holds personal meaning for Mascarinas.
“I have a girlfriend, and we’re doing long distance. It’s like whatever happens — arguments or good times — love will prevail,” he said.
The shy Cooper cut loose on the stage, and her “They Can’t Take That Away From Me” (by Michael Feinstein) seemed earnest and eager. Reminiscent of the graceful Julie Andrews in “The Sound of Music,” Cooper’s elegant and soaring voice seemed to slice through the air.
The final act of the night was Haberman’s rendition of Stevie Nicks’ “Stop Dragging My Heart Around.” A graduate of DHS and a senior at UC Davis, she has been a permanent presence in the Davis scene, with frequent appearances in restaurants and other competitions. Putting a spin on the old song, she made it her own to her best advantage — executing the vocal runs with ease.
Proceeds from Davis Community Idol went to the Advanced Treble Choir. This school year, the choir will host guest conductors and workshops, visit Lincolns Center in New York and watching “La Boheme” with the Metropolitan Opera. Grateful for the helpful funds, Gardias emphasized the importance of Community Idol and its attendees.
“I really appreciate all of the community coming out, not only the audience but the soloists who shared their music with us tonight,” she said.
Community Idol is open to anyone, and there is no audition process. Gardias describes it as an opportunity for people who may not have had the chance to perform in public to take the stage.
Master of ceremonies Dave Walters, a previous contestant, says the event is a worthy cause for highlighting the various groups and abilities in town.
“I love doing this because it brings out all these people in the community … you get all these diamonds in the rough from the campus — old folks, young folks, performing groups, there’s all this wonderful talent in Davis,” he said.
With ATC, Red Union Blue and Wealth of Nations performing between contestants, these bands and choir added a new twang or style of music to the night. Wealth of Nation’s timeless boy-band type featuring Dave Walters, Chris Stabenfeldt and Dave Hafter, was nostalgic yet new. Playing Mumford & Sons’ “Timshel,” their mature voices blended well with the popular and relatively new song.
Red Union Blue’s lively beats complemented the band’s easy vibes. Consisting of Trena Thompson, Chris Lee, Rich Desideri, Tim Olson and Nick Kantar, the group is a regular in the DHS scene.
ATC stayed classic with the time-honored song, “Embraceable You.” With only two performances throughout the night, ATC member Katie Sanger was glad for the chance to show off the talents of others who are not in the choir.
“It’s not so much pressure on us to perform as much as it is for us to showcase others’ talents,” Sanger said. “Community Idol really gives other people the time to shine.”