R Factor finalists compete for the “R Factor” crown

By Amethyst Martinez

Rider’s annual singing competition R Factor came to a close on Sept. 24 with finalists battling it out to be named the winner in the Bart Luedeke Center.

This year’s finalists were sophomore global supply chain major Kevin O’Brien, junior musical theater major Shamiea Thompson, junior theater major Josh Payne, junior political science major Sania Rashid, junior secondary education major Christine Ruggieri, freshman music production major Sebastian Leak and freshman film and television major William Dusinberre.

The judges were Heather Thompson, a creative director who has worked with talents such as Jennifer Lopez and Beyoncé, “X Factor” finalist Trace Kennedey and five-time winning R Factor mentor and Associate Dean of Campus Life Nick Barbati. Each judge had their own finalists who were on their team, and each mentor helped students throughout the week practice for the finale.

The first to perform was O’Brien who performed “You Make Me Feel So Young” by Frank Sinatra. Many of O’Brien’s track and field teammates were in the crowd and cheered him on throughout his performance. O’Brien was on “Team Trace” who mentored him in preparation for the finale.

When it came time for the judges’ critiques, Kennedey said, “[O’Brien] worked harder than everybody on my team. He talked to me everyday. … I’m proud.”

Rashid, who was on “Team Nick,” was sixth to perform and sang “We Don’t Have To Take Our Clothes Off’’ by Ella Eyre.

When it came time for the judge’s critiques, Kennedey said, “It was effortless. It was easy, but there was still something very engaging about it. You didn’t even. … move around too much. But I was still focused on you, and I love that. You have an amazing voice.”

Barbati added, “We were riveted by you because of the atmosphere that you created from your voice. That’s a carryover from the audition but it’s also a unique trait that you carry with you. You are a true artist that can command the space but also command everybody here to believe what you’re saying.”

The last to perform was Ruggieri, who was on “Team Trace.” She performed “Always Remember Us This Way” by Lady Gaga, which was popularized in the movie “A Star is Born”. Her mentor Kennedey said, “I think you’ve had the most emotion out of everybody and it’s hard to do that. … you have it naturally. You don’t have to do anything extra.”

As the performances wrapped up, the audience voted through text. As votes were being tallied and the attendees were putting in their votes, a brief intermission was held to introduce newly added ‘R Factor’ hall of fame inductees.

These inductees were students and hosts who’ve contributed to the show throughout the years. Newly inducted participants were Kennedey, and Rider alumni Caleb Holt and Dalien Hackley.

Next up was Leak, who performed “Love on the Brain” by Rihanna. He received a round of applause at the end of his performance. Leak was on “Team Nick,” and Barbati called Leak an ‘expert’ at singing.

“The good acts are those who like music and the great acts are those who love music. … It was clear from the moment you entered of your connection with the audience. … there wasn’t one word that wasn’t connected to your spirit there,” said Barbati.

Third to perform was Payne, who was not initially chosen as a finalist but replaced another finalist who dropped out of the competition. Payne, who was on “Team Heather,” sang an upbeat version of “Wonderwall” by Oasis.

“We’re going to see different things today, but you have been the most fun so far,” said Kennedey.

Fourth up was Shamiea Thompson who performed “I’m Going Down” by Mary J. Bilge. The crowd and judges gave her a standing ovation at the end of her performance, and Heather Thompson enthusiastically said, “It was smooth and pure and perfect and soulful and real and honest, and I just love watching every second.”

At the end of her critiques, Shamiea Thompson said to the audience, “Thank you for being able to share this experience with me.”

The fifth performance was Dusinberre from “Team Heather” who performed “Take Me to Church” by Hozier.

Barbati said in his critique, “It felt like you were a rockstar up there. … you truly were brilliant, and your artistry came through in every element of that song. I mean, I’m blown away. … he took us to church.”

After Kennedey, Holt and Hackley were inducted, the top two finalists chosen by the audience were revealed to be Shamiea Thompson and Ruggieri. The judges chose the last finalist, which led to a deadlock in votes between the three performers O’Brien, Sebastian and Dusinberre. The crowd cheered, and the last finalist chosen was Dusinberre.

Shamiea Thompson was the first person to perform again, and she performed the song “Listen” by Beyonce. The crowd gave Shamiea Thompson another standing ovation at the end of her performance.

Next up was Dusinberre who performed the song “Everybody’s Gotta Live” by Love with his guitar. He asked the crowd to sing along throughout his performance.

The final performance was Ruggieri, who performed “All I Want” by Kodaline. The crowd gave her a standing ovation. In the final judges’ words, Kennedey said “You can do anything you want to do, but I think you should do this.”

The crowd voted again by text message among the top three finalists. The top two were Shamiea Thompson and Ruggieri. Dusinberre was eliminated.

The ‘R Factor’ winner was Shamiea Thompson who was on “Team Trace.” In an email to The Rider News, Shamiea Thompson said, “The experience was very fun. This is my second time doing R Factor. This time around [I was] more relaxed and confident. My overall experience winning R Factor was extremely fun. I’m very glad to have participated.”

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