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Sue Bush
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Berkshire Idols: Jill Gallagher And Renee Lussier

By Susan Bush
08:15AM / Sunday, April 29, 2007

Berkshire Idol adult winner Jill Gallagher and youth winner Renee Lussier. [Photo by Sue Bush]
North Adams - There was laughter and tears, smiles and hugs, and 16 powerful vocal performances. When the stage lights came up, Jill Gallagher and Renee Lussier had captured top spots as the 2007 Berkshire Idol winners.

"I feel like a million bucks!" Gallagher said after being named the adult category winner.

Gallagher, 30, delivered the performance of the night with her heart-charged version of Susan Tedeschi's "It Hurt So Bad." Gallagher is employed as an Elder Services of Berkshire County protective services worker.

Berkshire Idol second place youth winner Marissa Morehouse [Photo by Sue Bush]
Prior to her performance, she said that family and friends encouraged her to enter the fundraising event.

Lussier sang her way to the top during the youth category. A ninth grade student at the Berne-Knox-Westerlo school district, Lussier rocked the Drury High School auditorium with her energetic performance of Sugarland's "Baby Girl."

Prior to her performance, Lussier said she is pursuing a singing career and is one of seven vocalists included on a CD titled "Angels of the Heart."

"I am speechless," she said after receiving a roses bouquet. Lussier lives in Knox, N.Y..

The two-hour extravaganza was emceed by a very dapper David Bond, whose banter and stage presence kept the audience entertained between performances.

Bellmon, Morehouse, Claim Second Place

Anthony Bellmon, 17, of Williamstown captured second place in the adult category with his driving vocal performance of "Ain't Too Proud To Beg," a Temptations hit. Prior to the performance, Bellmon said he was feeling "pretty good."

After taking the second prize, Bellmon said he was feeling "very good."

Berkshire Idol adult second place winner Anthony Bellmon [Photo by Sue Bush]

Youth Idol second place winner Marissa Morehouse, 14, of North Adams, earned her standing with a riveting, exciting performance of Carrie Underwood's "Before He Cheats."

"I love the song," Morehouse said before the performance. "I'm excited and I'm ready to go out on that stage and sing my heart out."

Tremendous Talent

Williamstown Theater Festival Artistic Director Roger Rees, country music recording artist Michael Joseph, and music industry promoter John Souchack, who once worked to promote the band U2, sat stage-side and offered their thoughts as each performer finished. After youth performances concluded, the judging trio said they were truly excited by the talent they'd seen and were eager to see what the adults had to offer.

"There is a tremendous amount of talent in northwestern Massachusetts," Rees said at the event conclusion. "This was a fantastic group of people."

During an interview prior to the event beginning, Rees described the performance arts as a project that is never finished.

Next Generation

Williamstown Theater Festival Artistic Director and Berkshire Idol judge Roger Rees with Berkshire Food Project Director Valerie Schwarz
"That's the great thing about it; in all it's forms, it's never finished," he said. "We're here tonight helping the next generation get going."

He did not watch the contestant videos posted on-line at for an on-line voting opportunity. He preferred to base his judging on individual live performances, he said.

Performance arts may be pursued and enjoyed by anyone, Rees said.

"There are very, very rich people and there are people who are struggling to make ends meet but everyone loves the arts," he said. "Anyone can enjoy singing, dancing, acting. The Greylock Theater Project [a youth intiative that includes scriptwriting and a WTF performance] is a very good example of that."

First-time judge Joseph is a Richmond native whose CD "Country Strong" was released in 2004.

"This is going to be exciting," Joseph said. "I think this will build a lot of confidence and give a real boost."

Rees and Souchack judged last year's event, and Souchack said he was eagerly anticipating the performances.

"And this is for a very good cause," he said.

$20,778 Raised For Four Entities

The competition generated $20,778 for four Berkshire region non-profit entities. The Northern Berkshire Community Coalition, the Elizabeth Freeman Center, the Berkshire Food Project, and the Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Berkshire County will share in the revenues.

Prizes for the first place winners included $1000 cash [adult category], $1000 U.S. savings bond [youth category]and a four hour session at Skyboro Sound toward the production of a demo CD, additional time at the Substation Recording Studio and pre-production and songwriting with Robby Baier.

12-year-old Abby Andrews waited in costume to perform "Good Morning, Baltimore" from the musical "Hairspray." [Photo by Sue Bush]

Second prize for adult and youth winners is a four hour session at Skyboro Sound with Robby Baier as well as time at the Substation Recording Studio. First and second prize winners may be invited to perform at other venues following the grand finale.

Top fundraiser Angelica "Angel" DeLaRosa won a Vacation Village prize package. DeLaRosa secured $1001 in donations. Gallagher won an iPod after generating over $885 in contributions and Lussier was presented with a Karaoke machine for raising $500 in donations.

A bevy of benefits are generated through events that reveal the talents of a region, Rees said.

"It brings a lot of people together, and it brings awareness to the different agencies," he said.

"And, the crowd goes wild."

Berkshire Idol performances may be viewed at the Berkshire Idol web site during the upcoming week.

Susan Bush may be reached via e-mail at or at 413-663-3384 ext. 29.
Your Comments
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The reason that Renee Lussier had so much money raised is because all of her family helped promote her and raised money too. My father, Renee’s uncle, Joseph Castoldi sold CD's of her out of his barber shop, Castoldi’s Style Shop on Tyler St. and then donated ALL the money too the Berkshire Idol Competition in Renee’s name. There was also a benefit diner at Renee’s school in Up-State New York. The proceeds went to the Berkshire Idol Competition. Renee has a lot of people, family and friends alike, who believe in her. Furthermore, there’s no reason that she shouldn’t have been allowed to compete because she's sang for money in the past. All musicians and artist eventually use their talents for money. Ever hear of a starving artist; someone who relies solely and/or mostly on their musical or artistic ability to strive and live. If someone like that had entered the competition they would have been praised for their intense work and will to live out their passions and follow their dreams. Renee started at an early age because we know she's got great talent. Don’t try to degrade or discourage her because she's superior to you.
from: Roberta McCauleyon: 01-29 00:00:00-2008

Hmmmm... this is a bit suspicious. Both winners from last year raised the most money. I wonder if that anything to do with deciding who would win out of that lot of spoiled, bratty, untalented children?
from: on: 01-27 00:00:00-2008

I certainly hope that Renee Lussier, the winner of the Berkshire Idol contest will continue her singing, and like Michael Joseph, one of the judges at the finals said {Renee is so good she need to be recording in Nashville} How true! Maybe when she gets older and starts to get paid for her talent this could happen.
from: JOEon: 01-19 00:00:00-2008

I'm surprised that Renee was even allowed to compete since she performs at various events and gets paid to do so.
from: Jenahon: 12-29 00:00:00-2007

I would like to know why the finale' videos are posted for the ages 8-15 category but not for the 16-adult category. The 16-adult videos are the old one's that put them in the finals...

Jill Gallagher gave a stellor performance on finale' night and it deserves to be posted.
from: Michelleon: 06-08 00:00:00-2007

I really liked the singers especially the youth winners Renee and Marissa. I would like to be a berksire idol like them someday.
from: Alion: 05-01 00:00:00-2007

I wanted to take a minute to congratulate and thank the organizers of the 2007 Berkshire Idol event. Organizing an event like this one is a tremendous undertaking, especially when resources (both human and financial) are limited. You did a stellar job, not just in arranging an event that showcases local, talented individuals, but most importantly (and it seems most easily overlooked) in raising funds and awareness for local charities that will benefit from all of your long hours and hard work. I want to recognize and commend all of you for a job very well done.
from: Amee Desjourdyon: 05-01 00:00:00-2007

Through a technical error, of the five Berkshire Idol web page sections that listed the 2007 Berkshire Idol winners, one inadvertently indicated that second place youth category winner Marissa Morehouse of North Adams was the Berkshire Idol youth first place winner. The Berkshire Idol youth winner for 2007 is Renee Lussier of Knox, N.Y.. The error was corrected late yesterday afternoon. All those associated with the Berkshire Idol fundraiser regret the error. However, no one associated with Berkshire Idol regrets watching the April 28 performances. Ms. Lussier, Ms. Morehouse, Mr. Bellmon and Ms. Gallagher are to be congratulated for their performances and their well-deserved accolades. Each and every vocalist delivered a wonderful performance. Four local non-profit organizations will share over $20,000. The Berkshire region, and eastern New York and southwestern Vermont communities have proven once again that the residents here have both talent and heart.
from: Susan Bushon: 04-30 00:00:00-2007

I went to the main page, and I couldn't believe that Marissa Morehead's picture was there next to Jill, with the headline underneath, that she was the 2007 Berkshire Idol. I must be in the twilight zone, how could that be, how could Renee be so slighted, being that she the winner.
This certainly needs to be corrected, and Renee should be featured in your articles in the future.
from: Joseph Castoldion: 04-29 00:00:00-2007

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