‘Italian Idol’ wins $50K grant

‘Italian Idol’ wins $50K grant

Nicholas Barakos, winner of an honorable mention in the 2014 Italian Idol Singing Contest, at that year’s ‘Viva Italia’ Concert

The Italian Idol Singing Competition at Wagner College has been given a $50,000 grant from the Licia Albanese Puccini Foundation to be used as awards and scholarships for student singers.

The grant came through the efforts of Wagner College voice professor Anthony Turner, music professor Roger Wesby and former trustee Al Palladino ’61, along with the help and expertise of Patrick Mooney of the college’s Office of Institutional Advancement,

A few years ago, founder and curator of the Italian Idol competition Roger Wesby started sending postcards to the members of Wagner College’s DaVinci Society, inviting them to a pair of Italian heritage events organized by the college: Idol, and the “Viva Italia” Concert.

Last fall, Al Palladino received the postcard and called the Music Department administrator, Gina Mannino, asking about the competition and how it could be in its 13th year while he — an Italian American, a member of the DaVinci Society, an alumnus and a former trustee — had never heard of it.

Palladino came to the Italian Idol Singing Competition with Michael Fornabaio. Both, as it turned out, were board members of the Licia Albanese Puccini Foundation, which has helped young singers for over 50 years. They were impressed with the competition and with our students, and they informed us that the foundation was going to be liquidated. They had intended to give the remaining funds to the Manhattan School of Music, but they asked us to put together documents and a proposal for a grant to the Italian Idol program.

Throughout all of this, Anthony Turner maintained persistent contact with Palladino and, together, he and Wesby drafted documents. After a good deal of back and forth and consultations with friends who understand gifts and endowments, the grant was firmed up. There is hope that a little more funding might come our way from the Albanese Foundation, but for now there is gratitude, relief and rejoicing.

“Much credit should be given Anthony Turner,” Wesby said. “Anthony has helped to raise the visibility and prestige of the Italian Idol competition, raised money to increase the amounts of its prizes, and doggedly saw this donation through.

“We should also note that the quality of the Italian Idol competition and the talent of our student vocalists so impressed the representatives of the Albanese Foundation that Wagner singers have become co-recipients with those of a prestigious conservatory, Manhattan School of Music — so congratulations to our students!”