If you see the Pursuing JC band you’ll be heartened by their music. If you talk to them you’ll be inspired by what they have to say. On May 31 they were among 21 finalists who competed for coveted titles at the Huntington Arts Council’s 5th annual event “Got Talent? Long Island,” a competition for performers 18 years and under.
The overall winner was 15-year-old vocalist Kristen Murphy who performed a rendition of “Popular” by Stephen Schwartz. She received a $1,000 cash award and an opening performance at the 49th Annual Huntington Summer Arts Festival.
Kristina Diaz, 16, danced her way to the Rising Star Award. She performed to “On The Nature of Daylight.” Dressed in all white she flew across the stage with twists, leaps and turns that awed the audience.
After all the contestants competed and the audience voted it was the Pursuing JCs group of 8 band members who won the Audience Choice Award. This band started in 2011 at Shelter Rock Church as a youth group band with just one song. However, once heard they have since appeared at churches and festivals throughout Long Island with an array of songs. On August 10th they will be performing at the Miss Long Island Teen Pageant.
The event was hosted by Bob Sciotto, who did an incredible job introducing each competitor listing off their accomplishments thus far with a comedic flair. The event was held at the Dix Hills Performing Arts Center at Five Towns College in Dix Hills, NY.
The celebrity judges who chose the winners included Michael Hume, Donna McKenna, John Platt and Sheila Sheffield.
Pursuing JC Band members have a lot to say
Clearly the members of the Pursuing JC band were ecstatic with their victory but even more thrilled with the chance they are being given to send a message to those who listen to them play and pay attention to the words of the songs they choose.
The song they chose for this event was called Viva La Vida and as band member Kelsey De Rosa (16), Melville, NY explained, “This song is about Napoleon who built his entire kingdom on sand, which is weak, but we are building the foundation of our life on solid rock, which is strong and what this song is about.”
One of the verses of this song which relates to what Kelsey was referring to goes as follows:
“One minute I held the key
Next the walls were closed on me
And I discovered that my castles stand
Upon pillars of salt and pillars of sand”
Michael Ottavio (15), Manhasset, who is the lead singer and a guitarist, continued on that theme noting, “The song was originally written about Napoleon but we think of ourselves and believe that when we build our lives on a good foundation our lives will have better endings.”
Electric guitarist Emerald Geiger (15), New Hyde Park, echoed his sentiments remarking, “It was based on Napoleon but it can be relevant to all of us.”
When asked what this opportunity means to them the band members were very vocal. “I get to have an experience that most people will never have in their lives and I get to be friends with people I may not have met,” continued Kelsey, who both sings and plays the violin throughout the song.
For Emerald it was the fact that she joined the band not knowing much about music. “I did not know how to play very well. By being a part of this band it has helped me grow and get a direction for my life. I now know that I want to go into music and it’s because of how this band led me in the right direction.”
And what about the message that this band of members that range from 11 years old to 16 have to say, even the younger ones in the group offered thoughtful advice. “For those people who feel like they have no hope my wish is that the message in this song gives them hope,” remarked Kelsey’s 12-year-old sister and drummer Corinne.
Ann Paulose (16), Brookville, was in sync with Corinne about that message of hope. This guitarist commented, “When you think about it the song is about hope and even if you get pushed down and are defeated there’s always hope for a new day.”
Michael’s 11-year-old brother Alex, a guitarist, didn't hold back when it was his turn to speak and piped up, “When people first see us they think how cute but after they hear us they are surprised by what we can do. What I want is for them to be inspired to achieve their dreams and not let anything stop them.”
For Kelsey’s and Corinne’s 13-year-old brother and pianist Gregory the message was that, “just because we are young doesn't mean anything because you can follow your passion at any age.”
What was most impressive about this group of kids was how clear they were about the fact that this is not just about a group of kids singing but it’s about those messages and others that they hope to pass along.
Kelsey pondered before she spoke emphasizing the importance of what she wanted to say. “There is a lot of talk about our generation and how we are a soiled generation. I don’t want people to leave just knowing our music or performance ability but rather to take away hope for our generation and to maybe rethink it. Not that we are better or different but I want them to realize that maybe they have misjudged our generation.”
Michael’s final comments were also carefully thought out. “Being in high school it has taken us away from a lot of things that could have been detrimental to our lives because we spend our free time practicing.”
He further added about what he hoped the crowd would take away from watching them play. With a name like Pursuing JC it is clear that this is a Christian band but their hope is to cross the boundaries. “I think what I want them to take away especially non-Christians is that it’s true that we are a church derived band but there are songs even on regular radio that have messages of hope and faith. For us, we believe that no matter what is happening in your life heaven has a plan for all of us.”
It is Emerald’s comment that this article will close with. “Adults are always looking at us as kids and even in school we have to raise our hands to do things like go to the bathroom but with this band we can go up there and we can play music and we can show the world that we are all capable of amazing things whether we are young or old.”
Kelsey De Rosa (16) – Singer and Violinist, Melville
Corinne De Rosa (12) – Drummer, Melville
Gregory De Rosa – (12) Pianist, Melville
Michael Ottavio (15) – Singer, Guitarist, Manhasset
Emerald Geiger (15) – Electric Guitar, New Hyde Park
Ann Paulose (16) – Guitar, Brookville
Alex Ottavio (11) – Electric Guitar, Manhasset
Jasmine Benjamin (15) – Vocalist, Manhasset