More than 100 high school students from around the metro area auditioned for the KC SuperStar singing contest at the Jewish Community Center Wednesday, completing the first stage of a competition that was cut short when a gunman killed a boy and his grandfather at the center on April 13.
Reat Griffin Underwood, a freshman at Blue Valley High School, and his grandfather, William Lewis Corporon, were shot as they arrived at the center about 1 p.m. April 13. Underwood was ready to perform at the second day of the auditions.
The gunman then drove to the Village Shalom senior living facility nearby, where he fatally shot Terri LaManno, who had gone there to visit her mother.
F. Glenn Miller is charged with capital murder and first-degree murder in the attacks.
Jacob Schreiber, president and CEO of the Jewish Community Center, said it was important to reschedule the auditions rather than call off the singing contest.
“Canceling KC SuperStar was never considered, never discussed,” Schreiber said Wednesday afternoon before auditions began. “We all believed it should go on, that it was the right thing to do. Canceling would send the wrong message.”
The Jewish Community Center has established a fund in memory of the victims and is working with families to determine how to use the money. As they work to enhance security at the center, the staff is turning attention back to the mission of helping people, Schreiber said.
“We’re back to normal. What we do now is going to define us,” he said.
SuperStar coordinator Felice Azorsky said 144 teenagers had registered to audition on April 13. Only four or five had sung when police came into the room and told everybody to stay put.
“There were a lot of kids milling around,” Azorsky said. “They, of course, were surprised and shocked but everyone remained very calm. No one expressed any fear. There were no outbursts or tears. Later on some began singing and dancing to pass the time. We were locked in the room for nearly two hours before the doors were opened and we could leave.”
Only high school students who already were registered for the second day could audition Wednesday, and contest organizers told them by email that security would be high. Organizers said everyone who had signed up for the April 13 auditions showed up Wednesday.
“Some kids mentioned the shooting before they auditioned today but they didn’t dwell on it. They talked more about what was going on at school,” Azorsky said.
Olathe North sophomore Sabian Lucas and Shawnee Mission East freshman Haley Lynch were nervous about auditioning Wednesday.
“I guess I’m kind of paranoid. My mom was at the center when the shooting started,” Lucas said. “But after I began singing I was all right.”
Grant Mayfield, 18, a senior at St. Thomas Aquinas, also said he was a little nervous to perform Wednesday, but he didn’t worry about security.
Sarah Grisamore, a junior at Lee’s Summit West, didn’t know about the shooting until she got to the Jewish Community Center about 90 minutes afterward. She didn’t hesitate to go through with her audition when it was rescheduled.
“I never thought about not coming back Wednesday. I wasn’t afraid,” she said, because police had their suspect.