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KC SuperStar finalists include Jewish contestant

Paris Naster is one of 10 finalists vying to become the next KC SuperStar.

This year marked the first time 17-year-old Paris Naster auditioned for KC SuperStar, the Jewish Community Center’s “American Idol/The Voice” singing competition. Two hundred singers who participated in open

auditions in April; 24 were selected for the semi-finals. On June 9, Paris learned she will be the first ever Jewish finalist in the five-year history of the event, which serves as the JCC’s largest fundraiser of the year. The finals — featuring Paris and Russell Brown, Kate Cosentino, Tessa Hake, Justus Johnson, Prince Russell Johnson, Keith Klein, Maggie Marx, Wyatt McCall and Taylor Ramsey — will take place Sunday, Aug. 24, at Johnson County Community College. Tickets are still available to watch the competition on a big screen in the Fan Room.

Proceeds from KC SuperStar underwrite more than $460,000 in scholarships and programs at the JCC. Based on financial need, these scholarships give children, families and individuals access to the JCC’s programs and activities, such as summer camps, the Child Development Center, special needs and the Heritage Center for older adults. 

In this the JCC’s 100th anniversary year, the event will also honor the founding families of the Jewish Community Campus.

Paris, who is a senior at Blue Valley North High School, began performing in school programs such as talent shows when she was in elementary school. When she was in fifth grade at Heartland Elementary School, she decided to enter the Jerry Penzner Young Artists Showcase at the JCC. After that, she was hooked on performing.

“That really started it all,” said Paris, the daughter of Debbi Naster and the granddaughter of Howard and Louise Naster.

Today, Paris trains with a voice teacher and participates in community theater productions around Kansas City. She trains in both classical and contemporary music — enjoying both genres equally.

One theater group Paris especially enjoys is Musical Theatre for Young People. This summer she attended Broadway at Baker, a seven-day camp where a Broadway musical is staged under the auspices of MTYP and Baker University. She also played Judith in MTYP’s production of “Jesus Christ Superstar.”

Paris has been rehearsing for the KC SuperStar finals whenever she gets a chance. Once Paris learned she was a finalist, the very first thing she had to do was choose the song she would sing. Paris chose four songs using the criteria of what would she connect with and enjoy singing as well as what would most appeal to the audience.

She sang those songs to the SuperStar producers.

“They got to hear what sounded best and decide which one you really connected with. I actually ended up being able to go with my favorite option of my four choices. It’s ‘Happy Days are Here Again,’ by Barbra Streisand,” she said.

Unlike many people her age, Paris likes a variety of different music genres. Even more surprising, Paris said she’s always preferred to listen to more seasoned artists.

“I don’t typically listen to modern music on the radio. I have different CDs and I’m used to listening to older stuff,” she said.

Some of her faves include the Temptations and other Motown artists.

“I’ve also grown up listening to Frank Sinatra with my grandparents and just a lot of music from the ‘30s and ‘40s with big bands.”

Since the end of June, Paris said the 10 finalists have rehearsed together a few times each week “on group numbers and choreography.”

“We also had two or three individual rehearsals with Richard McCroskey, who is the music director for KC SuperStar. “I sing all the time so I practice in my car and around the house and definitely with my voice teacher.”

This year’s KC SuperStar will win the $10,000 Craig Citron Memorial Scholarship. The second place winner will receive a $5,000 scholarship; third place-$2,500 and fourth place a $1,000 scholarship. The rest of the finalists will receive $500 scholarships.

At the finals on Aug. 24, a panel of professionals in the entertainment industry will judge the singers selecting the top four; then the audience will vote electronically to determine the ultimate winner. 

If Paris wins the competition, she’ll use at least some of the money toward college preparation. She said she might use it toward visiting college campuses or for more voice and dance lessons.

“I think it’s a great amount of money that could help so much toward all of the kids’ futures and I think that’s the point of KC SuperStar, to help us further our music careers and give us opportunities that we wouldn’t have without the money,” she said.

Paris hopes to become a vocal performer someday.

“There are so many incredible colleges out there that offer music training, whether it be musical theater or a bachelor’s in music. So right now I’m just looking for the right fit. I definitely have a few choices in mind, but I’m still in the process of researching and talking to alumni,” she explained.

To earn a spot in one of these music and/or theater programs, the student first has to meet the school’s academic standards. Once the student has been admitted academically, then the audition process begins.

“It’s a crazy long process,” she said.

 

Tickets remain for KC SuperStar

General admission tickets to KC SuperStar are still available in the Fan Room that is located in the Polsky Theatre adjacent to Yardley Hall at Johnson County Community College. The Fan Room is sponsored by the Kansas City Chiefs and tickets are $15. The main event takes place in Yardley Hall. Fan Room ticket holders will see KC SuperStar streamed live on a big screen. All audience members will vote electronically for the winner. For ticket information, call 913-327-8000.

This year some proceeds from KC SuperStar will be donated to The Reat Griffin Underwood Rising Stars Fund at the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation. These monies are designated to fund the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City’s Reat Griffin Underwood Rising Star Program that will support education, theater and training activities that help youth 21 years old and younger explore their dreams and goals in the performing arts. The fund will also provide coaching for contestants for KC SuperStar in future years.

To contribute to the Reat Griffin Underwood Rising Star Fund visit https://gkccfonlinedonations.org/give/unde02.asp or call 816-842-0944.