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Sonali sings way to success at RichCity Idol

Ten high school students gave a sold-out crowd their best Tuesday night—but just one singer was crowned RichCity Idol 2012.

The ninth annual competition, based on popular TV talent shows, featured singers representing each public high school in Richmond. After a performance from each, the Gateway Theatre audience chose a Grade 11 student from Matthew McNair Secondary as the winner.

Sonali da Silva dazzled the crowd with her rendition of Kelly Clarkson's song "Beautiful Disaster," earning her top honours.

Runner-up was Kris Aquino, a Grade 12 student at H.J. Cambie, while Grade 11 Hugh Boyd Secondary student Dana Barlaan  finished third in voting.

Backstage, da Silva, 16, said she wasn't expecting to win on the big stage.

"All of them, were so amazing," she said of the others. "It's so amazing to come this far. Standing up there, I have no words to describe it."

RichCity Idol

Music became a passion for her in Grade 8 after she performed at a school talent show—and after Tuesday night, that passion doesn't appear to have waned.

Said da Silva: "Even if it's just as a hobby, it's something I love to do."

Offering thoughts on each performance were judges Andrew Allen, a Vernon-based singer-songwriter; Andrew Sosa, the Beat 94.5 intern and former Idol host; and Adam Hurstfield, president of XOXO Entertainment Corp.

Allen, who also offered a guest performance, told da Silva she took the Clarkson song "over the top."

"I was astounded by your vocal control," he said. "This competition has been amazing."

Sosa added: "I could tell it really meant something to you."

Hurstfield didn't quite know what to say.

Andrew Allen

"I'm going to try not to swear here, but holy beep," he said. "I don't normally say this but I like that version better than the original Kelly Clarkson (one)."

J.N. Burnett student Moses Caliboso and R.A. McMath's Lorie Leung emceed the evening, while two Richmond-based dance crews also lit up the stage: Freshh, which recently made the finals of the TV reality show Canada's Got Talent; and F8te, an all-girl dance crew from Fresh Groove Productions. Jeff Laing, a singer who served as a vocal coach for the 10 competitors, also performed.

Other students spent months planning RichCity Idol, led by executive producer and event co-founder Natasha Jung, along with co-ordinators Joanne Angai, Jennifer Liu and Justin Uyeno.

Other idols who competed this year: Monica Teng (Palmer), Jessica Joy (McRoberts), Lexys Bandayrel (MacNeill), Ronny Au (Burnett), Chris Clute (McMath), Sherilyn Fernando (Richmond) and Geraldine Figueroa (Steveston London).

Proceeds from this year's event will be donated to B.C. Children's Hospital.

As winner, da Silva nets a $7,000 scholarship to RSA Academy and a $600 recording package from Promised Land Studios.

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