Joseph Panuccio said he never performed in front of a crowd and only began writing recently. He thought since he has four more years in school, “Why not do it now rather than getting upset because I missed my chance?”
His chance came when red lights flashed around the BLC Theater stage while the screen showed hashtagged tweets reflecting the R Factor showcase.
As 8 p.m. approached, the audience lights dimmed and the onstage lights turned blue. R Factor VI was about to begin.
Senior elementary education major Jackie Palmer and junior public relations major Kevin Grunder walked out, introducing themselves and the judges.
The judges were singer-songwriter Jaden Michaels, singer and season-one finalist of R Factor Dani Knights, coordinator of marketing and promotions Donte Carty, and assistant director of campus life Nick Barbati.
Palmer and Grunder explained how the show and voting would take place.
In round one, nine students would sing and the audience would vote. Then, the top two would be picked, followed by the judges’ vote for the third finalist chair. In round two, the finalists would perform their last song and then the audience would once again vote for the winner.
The night kicked off with sophomore music education major Justin Farrell performing a mashup of “Don’t” by Ed Sheeran, “Thrift Shop” by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis featuring Wanz and “No Diggity” by Blackstreet.
Freshman musical theater major Janayla Montes sang “I Have Nothing” by Whitney Houston, saying afterwards, “When I sing, I want the audience to feel me.”
Senior psychology major Diamond Carr sang “Superstition” by Stevie Wonder followed by senior psychology major Marissa Gennerelli who sang “Gravity” by Sara Bareilles.
Michaels complimented Gennerelli’s vocal abilty, noting that her voice reminds her of Bareilles.
Next to take the stage was freshman liberal arts major Gabriela Mendoza who sang “1+1” by Beyonce. Michaels stated that she would want to work with her on an album in the future.
Mendoza’s coach, Knights, agreed and told her that she “cannot stop singing.”
Sophomore elementary education major Taylor Donovan hit the stage singing Adele’s song “Crazy For You.”
Barbati praised Donovan’s performance, saying she sang the song better than Adele herself.
Freshman music studies major Davia Echols performed “Neither One of Us” by Gladys Knight.
Following Echols was freshman secondary education major Joseph Panuccio who sang “Jealous” by Labrinth.
“There’s a sweet, humbling spirit about you,” Knights said.
The last contestant was freshman elementary education major Chloe Heisler, who sang a quirky rendition of “Riptide” by Vance Joy.
For the second round, the audience first voted in Mendoza and Montes. Now, the pressure was on the judges, who had to pick the third contestant to be the finalist.
Carty voted for Gennerelli and Michaels voted for Donovan, while Barbati and Knights voted for Mendoza.
Mendoza went first in round two and sang a part of Alicia Keys and John Mayer’s song “Lesson Learned” while playing the piano.
Knights, her coach, acknowledged her artistry because even though she was nervous, it was still beautiful.
Next, Montes sang a gospel song, “His Eye is on The Sparrow.”
It was clearly a crowd pleaser, as evidenced by chants of “Amen!” and “Yes!” that filled the room.
Barbati simply said, “[Your] voice is so beautiful.”
Last but not least, Panuccio sung an original song, titled “Lay Next to Me.”
He sang directly to the audience, later coming down from the stage, singing eye to eye with Michaels and giving a rose to Barbati.
At the end of the song, the theater erupted into screams and applause.
Grunder and Palmer made their way back to the stage with the results. It was announced that Mendoza came in third place.
Suspense filled the room as it now came down to Montes and Panuccio. People seemed to hold their breath while waiting for the winner to be announced.
Palmer and Grunder declared that Panuccio was the winner of season VI of R Factor.
Panuccio’s soccer teammates nearly leapt out of their seats with the crowd, giving him a standing ovation.
As the show closed, Panuccio sang, “Nothing Shy,” which happened to be the same song he sang for his audition.
“It feels amazing [to win] as a freshman,” Panuccio said. “It’s unreal and unexpected.”
[Originally posted on Rider News on October 6, 2015.]