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Chiara Heard wins Wellesley Idol title

It was a Wellesley Idol unlike any of the others since the competition was launched in 2005, but in the end it was just like all the others: a young singer was named as winner.

This year, it’s New Dundee resident Chiara Heard who claimed the title after the final round over the weekend.

Though the format was moved online from in-person performances, the process proved beneficial to the contestants, the final three of whom vied for top prize. Heard, 16, edged out Conestogo’s Mitch Roemer, 12, and Elmira’s Cassandra Dammeier, 14.

“It feels good,” said Heard of the victory. “I never really won a competition before, so it was very exciting.”

For last weekend’s finals, videos of Heard covering Britney Spears’ Toxic and Louis Cappelli’s Fade played for the digital crowd.

“I thought they both suited my voice really well, and they were really fun and a challenge to do. So, I thought they’d be good for experience.”

Heard says the Wellesley Idol mentorship process helped improve her skills and knowledge of computers. “I got some really good feedback. It was a really good experience for getting used to this aspect doing it online, having to deal with that kind of stuff, because I’m not good with technical things like computers. So, it was a good experience, because it is very different from performing live on stage. I got that, and good feedback on performing better. That was good because my performance skill improved, I think, during the process.”

Long-time competition judge and mentor Allister Bradley said this year’s outing was more of challenge due to the coronavirus precautions that ruled out live performances, as well as the usual venues at the Wellesley Fall Fair and Apple Butter and Cheese Festival.

“We had to reinvent the wheel there, using social media in ways we hadn’t before … in places we hadn’t before. So we didn’t get the word out to as many students as we had in the past. But we still got enough to hold our tryouts,” he explained.

In a typical case situation, the drafting process would include reaching out to schools in and around the region, but because schools were no longer in session they had to fall on social media to find willing participants.

“The next adaptation was we couldn’t do anything in person. So, this was the first time we allowed video auditions and did all the get-togethers over Zoom meetings. I didn’t know how that would work for the performers because, again, it’s totally foreign for them: singing to a camera, not having an audience to sing to,” said Bradley.

However, it proved beneficial since coordinating with mentor’s schedules can be challenging during usual times. With no one travelling and most people staying in one place, mentors were able to be more engaged.

Another change was all of the applicants were accepted for mentorship. “We had a great group of kids ranging from 10-17,” said Bradley.

“I would say that we’re so proud of them for giving it a try in an unusual, uncertain year. And, and as always, we’re very proud to have seen their growth, even throughout the few months that we were together.”

The finals were hosted over on Wellesley Idol’s Facebook page using the Facebook Live feature. Finalists pre-recorded their performances for the public to listen to. The show also featured performances from past winners and a guest appearance from Wellesley’s Sean Bertram.

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