‘Idol’ Moments Help Others

Senior citizens sang their hearts out at the third annual Senior American Idol event last week by Orland Township.

While “American Idol” — the iconic reality TV show on which the senior event is based — will be starting its final season later this year, the performance competition at Georgios Banquets in Orland Hills was bigger than ever, as senior citizens showcased their talents for a good cause.

Marie Ryan, the township’s senior service coordinator, said all of the proceeds from the event go toward scholarships for local high school students.

“It’s exciting for our participants to get up onstage and face their fears, but knowing they are helping toward a good cause motivates them,” she said.

Fifteen contestants age 55 and older competed. Some sang in public for the first time, while others have been passionate about music throughout their lives.

Kannan “Ken” Sundar was anything but nervous to perform “Mountain Music,” by Alabama.

“Everyone gets butterflies, but if Frank Sinatra can do it, then I can do it,” he said.

The country music lover showcased his talent for playing the harmonica — 20 different kinds, to be exact.

Others got in on the creativity and brought out vintage guitars or elaborate costumes to aid their performances in hopes of earning high scores.

“We once had a contestant dress up in a jail jumpsuit to sing ‘Jailhouse Rock.’ That was fun,” said Kevin Grace, who hosted the show.

This was the third time the HGTV and “Windy City Live” star played the role of Ryan Seacrest. Grace said he loves the event and that it has been gaining more momentum each year.

“This year we tried to make it more streamlined. We have a DJ instead of a live band to pump up the crowd more and have narrowed our judges down from six to three like in the TV show,” he said.

The judges are no strangers to the “American Idol” phenomenon, as two of them were contestants on the hit show.

Gina Glocksen-Ruzicka made it to the top 10 in Season 6 of American Idol. She said it is much better to be on the other side of things instead of getting up onstage and being judged.

“I was so nervous on the show, because I’m singing for these talented judges and being scored,” she said.

Ruzicka said that as a judge, she looks for charisma, originality and who can hold her attention for the entire song.

The guest judges were not as harsh as Simon Cowell as critics, but rather offered advice and applauded the contestants for having the guts to get up onstage.

The audience was responsive to the contestants as well, singing along or clapping to the songs to encourage the singers.

Although it was a competition, Ryan said each contestant is a winner in her book.

“Witnessing their courage to get up there and sing in front of all these people really makes them all joyous to watch,” she said.

Jim O’Keefe won with his performance of “Mack the Knife” by Bobby Darin.

[Via: The Daily Southtown]

About Allison Matyus