By Karen Camuso

A local group of young jazz and funk musicians who were formed at the RI Philharmonic were first prize winners at a RI music competition. Twelve acts performed at the Greenwich Odeum on Sunday, April 29, to compete in Race to the Stage, an “American Idol”-type show to choose the top three acts. Cutting the list to just three winner proved too difficult, however – judges ended up naming four.

The first place winner, the Paul Murphy Ensemble from the Rhode Island Philharmonic Music School (performing as the Tor Guides), and blew the audience away. Second place went to Visiting Wine, a duo from Boston. Third place went to singer/songwriter Alison Giuliano, from Providence, and the fourth place prize was awarded to singer Jesse Tolppa, from East Greenwich.

“Race to the Stage” was developed to identify new talent to perform at Summer’s End, a Labor Day weekend concert at Eldredge Field. Race to the Stage contestants will be the opening acts for the headlining Navy Band Northeast Pops Ensemble.

Summer’s End is an annual East Greenwich tradition since 1995, run by the volunteer nonprofit Summer Arts and Festival Organization (SAFO).  SAFO also offers arts scholarships to graduating seniors each year. Their goal is to support the arts in East Greenwich and “keep the music alive.”

The 12 acts were chosen from 32 aspiring performers from as far away as Pennsylvania and Maine. Aspirants submitted videos to a review team.

On April 29, four judges – all local music professionals who had not seen the video submissions – rated the live performances and provided feedback. The judges were Megan Catelli, cellist and music teacher at Cole Middle school; Katie Kleyla, vocalist with the New Providence Big Band; Bill McGrath, music series promotor; and vocalist/musician/songwriter Dana Wronski.

The Greenwich Odeum, Stephen Caraccia of Main Street Music, and Sal Sauco as emcee all contributed to make the event a success.

The Summer’s End concert is on Friday, Aug. 31 (rain date Saturday, Sept. 1). The event is free and open to the public. For more information, go to egsummersend.org or find the event on Facebook.