'X' marks the spot for teen's aspiring performance
“Congratulations, New Jersey. You have made it to the next stage of the X Factor 2011.”
Those were the words scrolled across the coveted yellow ticket that granted Donnie-Ray Brearton, 13, an eighth grader at Gorton Junior High School, access to the second round of auditions for the X Factor, a televised singing competition that airs Wednesday nights at 8 p.m. on FOX. The winner will receive a $5 million recording contract with Syco/Sony Music on the Dec. 22 finale.
While Donnie-Ray didn’t make it to the final round of auditions and won’t appear on the show, his spirits are still high.
“I have the experience now and I can say, ‘I did it,’” he said. “I didn’t just say I was going to do it. I tried and I made it pretty far. I’m proud of myself for it.”
The show debuted a few weeks ago, but Donnie-Ray auditioned in April at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. Nearly 20,000 people waited in line to try-out, yet only 15,000 were given the opportunity, as the show supplied limited wristbands.
After a few auditions, judges narrowed it down to 1,500 contestants. Then, they whittled it down to 500, with 250 group acts and 250 solo acts. From there, they selected 50 acts from the state for the show.
“He was in the 500 club,” said his father, Don. “Even though he didn’t make it to Hollywood, it was incredible. He did a video shoot, met new people, and practiced in the hallway with friends.”
In fact, Don accompanied his son on the singing journey. It didn’t take much for Donnie-Ray to convince his father to take him.
“I was on Google because I heard that they were having auditions and I found out they were going to be at the Prudential Center,” said Donnie-Ray. “I told my dad, ‘I was going to wait for American Idol, but I’m not. I want to go to the X Factor.’ He said, ‘Let’s go.’”
On the day of auditions, they left Warwick at 2 a.m. and drove to Newark, where they stayed for three days and two nights. Then, they waited in line for a wristband for more than six hours at the Prudential Center.
“The next day, we came back and had to sing for people from Sony Music Records,” Donnie-Ray said. “I sang ‘Get It Right’ from [the television show] Glee for a woman and she gave me a yellow ticket. When I finished singing, I was thinking, ‘Oh, my God-what if they say no?’ But, I kept telling myself, ‘They’re going to say, yes. I had dreams of them saying yes. And then I got the yellow ticket. To meet someone from Sony Records and have her tell me I’m really good was awesome.”
Donnie-Ray said the staff at X Factor advised him to come back next year, which he plans on doing. He also hopes to try out for America’s Got Talent, another televised talent competition.
“They just want my voice to mature a little more,” Donnie-Ray said. “There were a lot of good people there. The whole stadium was filled with people.”
Of those people, Donnie-Ray made a few friends at auditions.
“We were just walking around the place,” he said. “We had a lot of fun.”
Since the premiere, Donnie-Ray has been tuning in to watch the show each week. He thinks it’s neat that he got a behind-the-scenes look.
“When we were at the audition, they announced who the host was before the public knew,” he said.
Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul, former American Idol judges, are two of the four X Factor judges. Three-time Grammy Award-winning U.S. record executive, songwriter, and producer, Antonio “L.A” Reid, joins them, as does singer, songwriter, actress and former lead singer of the pop-group The Pussycat Dolls, Nicole Scherzinger.
Donnie-Ray said Cowell was at the Prudential Center during auditions, but he didn’t get a chance to meet Cowell, who is infamous for being brutally honest or cruel to contestants. However, he thinks highly of Cowell and was thrilled when Cowell sent him and the other contestants a special greeting.
“They put Simon on the big screen and he said, ‘I wish you all the best of luck,’” Donnie-Ray said. “I like him because he tells it like it is. He tells you the truth, which is good because I wouldn’t want someone to lie to me and get my hopes up.”
Donnie-Ray doesn’t have anything against Abdul, but he thinks she often sugarcoats the cold, hard facts when dealing with contestants. This, he feels, isn’t beneficial for anyone.
“I understand that she doesn’t want to hurt people’s feelings but you’re hurting them even more if you give false hope,” he said.
Jodi, Donnie-Ray’s mother, is pleased her son is pursuing his dream and enjoying himself in the process. She said she and Don are proud that he is doing what he loves.
“I also admirer him because I would never have the courage to get up there and sing in front of all those people,” said Jodi.
She said he has been singing, dancing and acting since he was a toddler. He even decided to perform his own play during his days in nursery school.
“When was four, he held casting calls, worked with kids on their parts, and put on the play,” Jodi said. “His teachers were amazed. He writes his own music, too, and travels throughout New England performing for the musical theatre.”
Donnie-Ray has been a member of the Kaleidoscope Children’s Theatre Company in Cranston for six years and has performed at local venues, including the Cape Cod Melody Tent in Mass.; the Chevrolet Theatre in Conn.; and the John Nazarian Center for the Performing Arts at Rhode Island College, to name just a few. He has starred in roles such as Hansel in Hansel and Gretel; Willy Mouse in Cinderella; and Gary in BULLY, or Better Understanding by Learning and Listening About You.
Additionally, he recently took part in the Actors, Models and Talent Competition.
“He got second place in the dancing competition,” said Don. “That was a fun week.”
Jodi agreed and said, “He got a bunch of awards.”
Donnie-Ray is also in the chorus at Gordon and plans to try-out for All-State chorus in the future. While he said he likes singing county music most, he adores being on stage in any capacity.
“I just love singing, dancing and acting,” Donnie-Ray said. “I love all eyes being on me. It can’t get any better than that.”