By Noah Manskar
Herricks High School’s music students thought “Herricks Idol” would be a one-time event when they first hosted it in 2005, said Anissa Arnold, the Herricks school district’s director of music and performing arts.
But the Herricks Tri-M Music Honor Society’s annual talent show and fundraiser has since become one of the school district’s most popular events, drawing sold-out crowds and raising at least $1,000 each year for the VH1 Save the Music Foundation, Arnold said.
This year’s 13th annual event was no exception. Bolstered by an appearance by Michael Linden, the 2006 Herricks graduate who won the first-ever “Herricks Idol” competition, it raised $1,500 and packed the high school auditorium on Jan. 6, Arnold said.
“I think people just like to have a good time on a Friday night, and they like being with their friends and cheering their friends on,” said Herricks senior Adam Cordero, president of the school’s Tri-M chapter.
About 100 students auditioned for Tri-M club officers, Cordero said, who chose five girls and five boys as semifinalists to perform in the show for a panel of four judges: high school Principal James Ruck, Assistant Principal Brian Hodge, Linden, who has performed on tours of Broadway shows, and his friend Michael Longo, also a professional actor and singer.
The judges narrowed the field to four singers, from which the audience chose one male and one female winner, Cordero said.
Sophomores Austin Kim of Searingtown and Hayley Slade of Williston Park came out on top with their performances of Jason Mraz’s “I Won’t Give Up” and Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy,” respectively.
“By nature the audience was supportive of every student that performed, whether it was their best friend or not, and there was just a lot of support and love in the room,” Arnold said.
Kim, a member of Herricks’ Chamber Orchestra, and Slade, who has acted in several plays and musicals, have both been singing since they were young, they said.
Kim said his friends encouraged him to audition, and he wanted to “prove to myself” that he could excel as a singer, he said.
“I just really want to put myself out there,” Slade said. “I want people to hear me and I just want to contribute my voice.”
The students weren’t the only singers to wow the crowd — Linden’s performance of Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me,” the song that won him the first “Herricks Idol” contest, drew cheers and applause from the audience, as did Longo’s rendition of Etta James’ “At Last.”
Proceeds from the show support the VH1 Save the Music Foundation, a national nonprofit organization that buys musical instruments for public elementary and middle schools that cannot afford them.
“Herricks Idol” always unites the school community “through sharing their passions for singing,” and teaches the Tri-M students important leadership skills as they organize all aspects of the show, including lights, sound, decorations and logistics, Arnold said.
“Seeing it all work and seeing people be happy and laugh” during the show made all the hard work worth it, Cordero said.