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‘Music can be a bridge that heals.’ KC SuperStar showcases top teen singers on Sunday

On Sunday, 10 singers will participate in the 2019 KC SuperStar competition at Johnson Country Community College’s Yardley Hall.
On Sunday, 10 singers will participate in the 2019 KC SuperStar competition at Johnson Country Community College’s Yardley Hall. Courtesy photo

On Sunday evening, Johnson County Community College’s Yardley Hall will resound with music, as 10 young headliners bring their musical gifts to the 2019 KC SuperStar competition, produced by the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City.

During the production, similar to “The Voice” and “American Idol,” these high-school age singers will compete for nearly $20,000 in scholarships, including a $10,000 top prize. This 10th anniversary of KC SuperStar will also feature “Hamilton” musical star, Phillipa Soo, as host and performer.

“KC SuperStar is a way The J (Jewish Community Center) gives back to the community through music,” said Tammy Ruder, the show’s director and executive producer since 2012. “Like The J, this program is open to everyone. All talented, driven performers and individuals, our finalists come from across the region and from very diverse backgrounds.

“In the past few weeks, I’ve watched them become more friends than competitors. We truly show music can be a bridge that heals and brings us together. We’re all more alike than different.”

Selected in early June from more than 200 singers who began auditioning in March, this year’s finalists have participated in an intensive rehearsal schedule the past three months. To prepare for the top-tier production, they have trained with vocal and performance coaches, collaborated with professional musicians and worked with lighting and sound professionals.

The singers, including previous KC SuperStar finalists, Sam Aubuchon and Emma Mathieson, have also had an opportunity to grow creatively and personally.

Aubuchon, a recent graduate of Blue Springs High School, won the Lee’s Summit Got Talent competition in early June. Two days later, he was selected as a KC SuperStar finalist.

While Aubuchon says this back-to-back success has been exhilarating, it has also inspired him to reimagine and refocus his plans for the future.

“There’s been a really big transition for me this summer,” he said. “Where theatre and music had been my hobbies, they’ve now become my career and job. I’ve developed a new sense of my future during the process of this show, and decided if I’m going to regard myself as a performer, it starts now.

“My goal is to pay the bills and not have to work a second job.”

Aubuchon plans to move to New York City by next summer and immediately begin the audition process. Though Broadway is always the dream, he says he would like opportunities to perform in regional and national tours, to experience the travel and learn about other people and places.

On Sunday, Aubuchon will perform Beyonce’s “Sandcastles.”

“I intentionally picked a song that was pretty difficult,” he said. “Finding that connection between myself and the lyrics, in order to make it an authentic performance, has been the challenge.

“A lot of times when you think about performing a pop song, you think about the composition and reaching the notes. But, with ‘Sandcastles,’ I have to focus on the words, as much as anything else. The judges and audience don’t just vote on our voices. We have to connect them not only to our songs, but to who we are.”

Aubuchon’s friend and fellow competitor, Emma Mathieson, of Lenexa, will be performing in her second KC SuperStar Sunday.

Mathieson, a senior at Shawnee Mission West, started singing when she was 2 years old.

“Singing can turn my mood around anytime,” she said. “It’s my favorite thing.”

Like Aubuchon, Mathieson has challenged herself with her 2019 song choice.

“Last year, I gravitated toward a more upbeat song, Carrie Underwood’s ‘Choctaw County Fair,’” she said. “This year, my song is ‘Alone’ by Heart. It’s vocally challenging and I can’t rely as much on the performance element and bopping around the stage.”

On Sunday, Aubuchon, Mathieson and fellow finalists will perform their individual songs accompanied by a live band. At the end of the performances, a panel of entertainment industry professionals will select the top four singers and the audience will then vote to determine the winners.

“We’re so excited for the 10th year of KC SuperStar,” said Felice Azorsky, The Jewish Community Center’s donor relations and events manager. “This year’s talent is some of the best we’ve ever seen come through, and we’re looking forward to a terrific show.”