Singing in front of a
large audience is no sweat for 13-year-old Rachelle Seney, since she
has been “singing for as long as she could talk,” according to her
So, when Seney was chosen by a group of judges to sing with the
cast of “Brooklyn the Musical,” one of the longest-running Broadway
shows of the season, Seney sang her heart out.
“I wasn't really nervous,” Seney said after performing at the
Bushnell Center for Performing Arts in Hartford last Sunday. “When I
sang the song, I didn't notice it was me (at first). I could hear the
speakers more than my voice, and it was a lot bigger (than I
The song, “Heart Behind These Hands,” was the introductory song, as
well as the final number, for the show. Before the finale was
performed, Diana DeGarmo, who was a former 2004 American Idol
runner-up and played the lead character “Brooklyn” in the musical,
introduced Seney and explained the Voices for Hope competition, the
contest that gave her the chance to sing with the cast of “Brooklyn.”
Voices for Hope is a partnership administered by the Local United
Network to Combat Hunger (LUNCH) in Mystic and New Generations
Ministries in Hartford. Both groups merged with “Brooklyn the Musical”
and the Bushnell in Hartford to help raise money to fight hunger and
Entrants paid $50 and submitted a tape or CD demo recording. The
money collected from the entrants will be used as funds toward local
area organizations, including the Covenant Shelter of New London, the
Harvest Home in Westerly, the New Generations' food pantry and
breakfast program and the Katie Blair House in Norwich. According to
Bill Pere, founder and executive director of LUNCH, approximately
$3,000 was raised in a three-week period for the cause.
“There were 52 entries, from as far away as New Jersey and Texas,”
Pere also said that the organizations plan on doing another contest
in the future, with different formats, organizations and prizes.
For the competition, Seney, who ranges between a soprano and alto,
submitted the song “A Change in Me,” a Broadway song from “Beauty and
“We try to keep this as an experience, and that whatever happens,
happens,” said Seney's mom, Jeanne.
The judging for the competition was a three-tier process, with all
contestants judged first by local music leaders. Twenty-five
semifinalists were then narrowed down to 15 by the director of
“Brooklyn,” Jeff Calhoun, music supervisor John McDaniel, and local
gospel singer DJ, Jason Norfleet. The 15 finalists gave a live
performance at the Bushnell in front of Pere and his wife, Kay, as
well as an agent from New York and L.A.'s top talent agencies in early
“I was called back that afternoon,” Seney said after her live
performance in front of the judges.
Seney, and seven other winners and two alternates were chosen, each
having the opportunity to sing with the cast of “Brooklyn” on separate
nights between June 20 and June 25.
“Upon hearing the initial submissions of all the entrants, one of
the judges noted about Rachelle,” Pere said. “(They said), 'She is my
favorite ... a beautiful voice and perfect pitch.'
“Rachelle has been with LUNCH and a voice student of my wife, Kay,
since she was in fifth grade (and) it has been wonderful to see her
develop her music talents in the last three years,” Pere added. “Both
Kay and I were there (to see her perform) and we were incredibly proud
of her. She looked very relaxed on stage, with a big smile, and when
she sang, her voice was strong and crystal clear.”
Seney enjoyed the play, which is about “a group of street-corner
storytellers who tell the story of a young girl searching for fame and
the father she never knew.”
“It was serious and humorous,” Seney said when she saw the show. “I
As far as Seney's future, she hopes to perform on Broadway again or
become a chorus director.
“I want to do something where I would go 'Woooo!' or have fun and
be someone else,” Seney said with a laugh.
This fall, Seney will be a freshman and member of the concert choir
at Ledyard High School. She will also be recording a few special songs
with the other finalists for a Voices for Hope compilation CD, set to
release next year.
“She surely has a bright future,” Pere said. “Rachelle always
lights up the room when she walks in – she has a great attitude and is
a real team player. I wish we could clone her.”
For more information on Voices for Hope, visit
www.lunchensemble.com or www.brooklynthemusical.com.