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Mason Sustayta wins first La Verne Idol competition

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During the challenge round of the La Verne Idol finals, contest winner Mason Sustayta sang “Faith” by George Michael. He won a $100 gift card, a trophy and his name inscribed on a plaque that will be kept in the music library in Founders Hall. Audience members selected the winner by texting the number of their favorite performance to an online electronic polling system. The coordinators of La Verne Idol hope it will become an annual tradition. / photo by Allison Lavelle

Christina Collins Burton
Arts Editor

A night of fun, music, and talent filled Morgan Auditorium to the brim with applause and laughter Tuesday as Mu Phi Epsilon awarded their first ever La Verne Idol, Mason Sustayta.

The idea of a singing competition began as a joke among the members of Mu Phi and eventually turned into La Verne Idol.

“There was a lot of talent up on stage,” Magdalena Suarez, biology major said. “I felt proud to be a Leo and came out here to support our student body.”

The winner was decided by the audience after all of the contestants preformed both of their selected pieces. All of those attending were asked to text in their selection to a specific number and pick their favorite Idol.

The evening started off with a guest performance by Ally Schultz singing Amy Wine­house’s version of “Valerie.” The performance got the audience warmed up as the first of the contestants took the stage.

The five finalists – Nawal Atoura, Vanessa Perocier, Mason Sustayta, Aleah Stephens and Jonathan Smith – took the stage to sing their challenge songs. Mu Phi challenged each of the contestants to select a song from an assigned era to show off their vocal talent.

Starting from the 1960s and ending with today’s hits, each performer blew the crowd away and was met with applause after each performance.

“Everyone here had a great voice,” Paolo Kespradit music major and Mu Phi active, said. “This competition helped them to express their musicality.”

Sustayta’s song for this challenge was “Faith” by George Michael.

Dressed the part, in a leather jacket that matched Michael’s signature look, Sustayta had the audience cheering as he tossed the jacket and danced across the stage.

During the intermission, the auditorium was alive with discussion about the contestants.

Many gathered to discuss whom they might vote for or whom they think had the best chance of winning.

As the lights dimmed and the second half of the performance began the audience got to see a different side of the contestants.

While many audience members expected more hit songs, what they were met with was a mix of emotional, upbeat and original pieces.

Sustayta, who originally did not have a second song prepared, began working on his second piece on Monday before the competition.

“I got one line done and got the rest down today,” Sustayta said. “I finished it an hour before I came for sound check.”

During his personal performance, Sustayta setup a notebook on a nearby stand and plucked a gentle melody on a guitar while singing his original piece.

Audience members swayed and hummed along with Sustayta as he sang.

At one point during his performance he encouraged the audience to sing the chorus along with him.

“It was cute. I definitely believe that he has swagger,” Melissa Emralino, psychology major, said. “He really knows how to woo the girls with his songs.”

“Mason is a very talented singer in choir and he writes his own songs, I think the audience made a great selection,” Kespradit said.

Before the winner of La Verne Idol was finally announced, Mu Phi surprised the audience by having some of their members, returning contestants and their finalists sing “Seasons of Love” from the hit musical “Rent.”

During rehearsals in the week prior to LV Idol, auditions were held among Mu Phi members and contestants to decide who would sing the solos.

Through voting among those auditioning, finalists Perocier and Smith were asked to sing solos and ended the song to an eruption of cheers and applause.

As the envelope was presented the audience fell silent and listened carefully for the winner’s name to be read aloud.

As Sustayta’s name was read, the crowd erupted once more, standing and cheering for the first ever La Verne Idol.

“I feel great; I can’t believe this,” Sustayta said. “When they called my name my feet walked but I wasn’t paying attention.”

Sustayta bowed and held up his prize for the crowd to see as cheer filled the auditorium.

As the first-ever winner of La Verne Idol, Sustayta won a $100 Visa gift card, a trophy and his name will be engraved in a plaque that will be hung in the music library in Founders Hall.

“Mason has the power to be a star if he takes it to the right places and he has got swagger.” Christopher Kaelberer, current president of Mu Phi Epsilon, said. “He just caught my eye since day one, and all he has to do is be himself and he can win over any crowd.”

“I believe this event is here to stay, maybe not every semester but definitely every year,” Kaelberer said. “We have hopefully started a new tradition for the University of La Verne.”

Christina Collins Burton can be reached at

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