New Castle News

Closer Look

May 27, 2013

Two locals among Rocket finalists

NEW CASTLE — The Scottish Rite Cathedral was a hot spot for local talent Friday night.

Rocket to the Stars, the biggest singing competition in western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio, held its semifinal round in New Castle to determine which of its competitors would be moving on to the finals.

Jewel Ullrich and Daniel Fusco, two New Castle residents, made the cut.

During Friday’s semifinal round, the singers performed one song before receiving feedback from the judging panel and being asked to explain or demonstrate an aspect of professional development they’ve learned through the program.

Ullrich and Fusco gave strong performances and received rave reviews from the judges, with judge Vaughn Hudspath calling Ullrich’s song, “the performance of the night.”

“It’s definitely a sense of accomplishment,” Ullrich said of her advancement to the final round. “We’ve worked a lot. From quarterfinals, we had two weeks, two to three weeks, to come here and be completely different performers.

“The people who did that made it, and the people who had to progress a little more got cut, but everyone here was absolutely amazing. They’re a blessing to me.”

Fusco shared his excitement to move on.

“I know personally I’m literally on cloud nine,” he said. “I’m so happy that I know what’s going to come and I’m just so excited to perform at the Fireworks Festival.

Both performers agree that the local support they’ve received has helped them push through to the final round of competition.

“I think one thing that we probably both feel is one a major sense of the hometown love,” Fusco said. “We’re both from New Castle, so the fact that we get to move on together and perform for all the people that we’re closest to, is such a sense of—I love New Castle, I love where I come from.”

Ullrich added: “I take pride in the talent here, how I was raised here and the people I know, because look, everyone came to support us.”

Before the final contest, the performers plan to put in hard work, making use of techniques they’ve learned during training with show judge, producer and artist developer James Meny. As part of the program, Ullrich and Fusco are learning performance enhancers along with the business side of entertainment.

“Everywhere else is such a fast pace, and you either make the cut or you be cut, so he’s bringing us all this knowledge so we can go to LA, we can go to Miami, Nashville, New York City and just be able to compete with the best,” Fusco said of Meny.

As for the future, the two hope to make a career in the entertainment business.

In August, Fusco will be attending Recording Connection Institute to earn a degree in audio engineering.

Ullrich doesn’t have a definite plan, but this competition has showed her one thing.

“I love singing, I really do, and this competition made me realize that this is what I want to do with my life,” she said. “This whole thing was such a blessing for me because it made me realize I don’t know what I’m going to do school-wise or anything with my life, but one thing I know for sure is I want to be an entertainer. I want to sing and I want to make people happy.”

The final round of Rocket to the Stars will take place July 13 during the downtown Fireworks Festival. Ullrich and Fusco will face off against each other as well as Mariah Keefer of Monaca, Joel Rosenstern of Hopewell, Jenna Panza of Gibsonia and Sammi Downes of Daisytown.

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