Weekly Feature

2018-04-04 / Lifestyles

Singers earn top spots in BPO competition

by HOLLY N. LIPKA Reporter

Chris Vasquez of Williamsville and Camryn Clune of Amherst were selected as Buffalo’s top vocalists in the “Buffalo Sings” competition hosted by the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra in March.

Out of more than 60 applicants, Vasquez was crowned Buffalo Sings Champion and Clune was crowned Buffalo Kids Sings Champion by a panel of judges.

As a result of their achievements, both will sing “Over the Rainbow,” written by Buffalo native Harold Arlen, with the BPO in upcoming concerts.

“I am very excited and grateful to be given this amazing opportunity to sing with such a huge ensemble,” said Clune. “I have always had such a love for the song ‘Over The Rainbow.’ This song is universal and always brings such joy to people. When I saw that there was an opportunity to sing it with an orchestra, I knew it was the chance of a lifetime.”

Vasquez will perform under the direction of John Morris Russell at the “Buffalo Sings” concert at 8 p.m. Saturday, April 14, and Clune will perform at the “Buffalo Kids Sings” concert at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, April 15, under the direction of Stefan Sanders. There will also be free pre-concert activities beginning at 1:30 p.m. before the Sunday concert.

Both concerts will take place at Kleinhans Music Hall, 3 Symphony Circle, Buffalo.

“I grew up and was raised in Williamsville, but my parents used to take us downtown to see shows at Kleinhans, Shea’s, and the old Studio Arena [Theater] all the time,” said Vasquez. “They loved the music and performances. So now, for me to be able to stand on the stage of Kleinhans and with the BPO is a wonderful honor and privilege.”

Vasquez holds degrees from Tufts University and the New England Conservatory of Music. He is an actor, singer, producer, award-winning tango artist and an English as Second Language instructor for Buffalo Public Schools.

He also has been recognized internationally for his passionate interpretations of the tango and received “Best Singer” from the New York City Argentine Consulate International Tango Competition.

“What moves me about tango songs is the relentless drive in the music,” said Vasquez. “The melodies have a unique way of telling the story and feeling in the song. I also find the lyrics to be very impassioned.”

Vasquez’s co-champion, Clune, is a senior at Christian Central Academy in Williamsville. Outside of school, she often performs the national anthem at sporting events for the NFL, NHL, Minor League Baseball, the University at Buffalo, Niagara University, St. Bonaventure University and others.

Last year, she starred in a locally produced film about heroin addiction called “In the Blink of An Eye.” She portrayed a 16-year-old dancer who injured her knee, began taking painkillers and became addicted to heroin.

“I lost an aunt to an overdose years ago, and I know how devastating it is to families,” said Clune. “I think there is still so much more that our society needs to learn about how to actually prevent this from happening, starting at a very early age.”

Besides singing and acting, Clune has conducted dozens of events and raised more than $50,000 for children and families affected by long-term illnesses. Clune also founded Backyard Broadway, an association of performers that raises money for families in need.

“I have a strong passion for helping others, and I am grateful to know that I have assisted many families through my efforts, using my God-given talents as a platform.”

Both Vasquez and Clune will be performing with the BPO for the first time. They are both excited about their debuts.

“The whole experience is going to be amazing, and I am so thankful that I can perform with such talented musicians at such an amazing place as Kleinhans Music Hall. It is a dream come true,” said Clune.

Vasquez said he will cherish the moment forever.

“I am most excited about that moment when I walk out there and see the talented members of the BPO, feel that warm, generous and infectious energy from John Morris Russell who will be conducting that evening, and then turn to the audience to share this beautiful song with my family, friends and fellow Buffalonians,” he said.

Tickets for both concerts are available by calling 885-5000, visiting bpo.org, or going to the box office at Kleinhans Music Hall.

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