12 battle in ‘Idol’ knockoff

By Megan Ingros | @KyKernel

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The audience was entranced during the first ever University Idol as 12 contestants put on performances.

The AcoUstiKats opened with the national anthem, followed by New York music director Bryan Carter who joined the a capella group in singing one of the songs he helped put together for the event, “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You.”

Jeremy Lewis, president of the fraternity Sigma Alpha Epsilon and member of the AcoUstiKats, hosted the event. He encouraged the audience to vote online by “liking” the contestants’ photos on the University Idol Facebook page during the show.

Created to raise money for the Lexington Cancer Foundation and St. Jude Children’s Hospital, Laura Eastes, the cancer foundation’s executive assistant, spoke to the audience.

“LCF is honored to be chosen as a beneficiary,” she said.

Emily Dicks, the Tri Delta sorority’s philanthropy chair, and Lesley Francisco, the Tri Delt president, also spoke on behalf of St. Jude’s and Tri Delt’s campaign to earn $15 million in 10 years.

“The performances were good overall,” said John Todd, an SAE member.

Deliberation was tough, according to the judges, who selected four finalists.

“It was more similar to ‘American Idol’ than I thought,” said Amy Kovanda, a member of Tri Delt. “The lineup and performances are great.”

Finalists were Briana Pastrano, John Logan, Hannah Ellis and Ron Wilbur. They all performed their own versions of The Beatles song “Let It Be” to determine first- and second-place winners.

In third place was Pastrano, with Wilbur taking second place and the $500 cash prize, and Ellis taking first place and $1,000.

Not everything went as planned, according to Carter and Lewis.

“But that’s live entertainment, and that’s what makes it fun. Even if all the seats are full you still want more,” Carter said. “The most important thing is helping people and helping kids with cancer and that’s what we did. Hopefully there will be even more next year.”

The event was an all-around success, Carter and Lewis agreed.

“There was wonderful talent discovered and connections made,” Carter said. “There were people I would want to work with in the future.”

Ellis, who graduated from UK in December, lives in Nashville, Tenn., and has her own album out.

“I was super excited. I was really surprised, too. It’s not normal for me to win a competition,” Ellis said. “I was more nervous after I made it into the top four, because it’s the same song, it’s an even playing field. I was shaking.”

Ellis said winning the event will help her in future endeavors.

“I’m constantly writing and producing. This will help me push forward,” Ellis said. “It’s good for your career and good for publicity. It will make your fans more interested.”