R Factor virtually crowns season 11 champion

By Sarah Siock

R Factor contestants stepped up their game at the show’s Sept. 4 finale with 13 hopeful giving powerful performances.

The finale of the annual singing competition took place live at 7 p.m. as a completely virtual event. The contestants who advanced from the Aug. 28 auditions were given a second chance to impress the judges.

Each contestant performed a full song for the finals. After those performances, the three judges each picked one contestant to advance the final round. These three contestants were able to perform a second song, and then the winner was decided by students. The voting took place live and the winner was announced the same night.

After countless show-stopping performances that ranged from an Adele cover to a John Lennon rendition, only one student could be crowned the winner. Ultimately, senior musical theatre major Dean Klebonas took home the victory.

“When I heard my name announced as the winner, I was genuinely surprised. It was a thrill to hear. I was just so proud,” said Klebonas.

In the first round of the night, Klebonas sang “What’s Up” by 4 Non Blondes, which was met with a positive reception from all of the judges.

“That was a main stage performance that people will be watching for years. This performance will be shown in R Factor clips for the next decade. It was tremendous,” said R Factor judge and Assistant Director of Campus Life Nick Barbati.

Klebonas was up against strong competition throughout the night.

Freshman business administration major Ragan Yates was another judge’s favorite who made it to the final round. Yates sang “Shallow” from the movie “A Star is Born” and “Something in the Water” by Carrie Underwood.

“I’ve been singing literally since I could talk. I wanted to compete in R Factor because I am new to Rider this year. I wanted to get involved in something. I saw the email about it and thought it would not hurt to try it out,” said Yates.

In his last performance of the night, Klebonas sang an original song titled “Rules.”

This was Klebonas’ second year competing in R Factor. Last year, he performed a different original song for his audition, but he did not advance to the finals. Klebonas said he wanted to “stay true to himself ” by singing another original this year.

“I came back to prove myself as an artist. I wanted to not only prove myself as a performer but as a songwriter. This was such an incredible reassurance that this is what I’m meant to do with my life,” said Klebonas.

Klebonas said he plans to pursue his career as a musician after graduation. He added that he has been singing his entire life and began songwriting seven years ago.

“My goal as an artist is to always create music that allows people to vibe, but also think about the lyrics they are hearing. It is my personal outlet of expression and I can’t picture myself doing anything else with my life,” he said.

Despite R Factor looking different this year due to its virtual format, students still showcased their talent with the entire Rider community. For Klebonas, the experience was one he will never forget.

“I’m just so grateful for the endless support from the Rider community. R Factor was a joy and a blessing,” said Klebonas after reflecting on his win.

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