S-Factor combines charity with singing competition

Making tonight’s S-Factor finals at the Smyrna Opera House are, back row, from left, Liahona Schafferman, Megan Wolf, Lamont Pierce, Diego Boateng, Sean Pyle (alternate), and Jacquelyn Jonacha. Front row is Megan Wallace (alternate), left, and Kyra McKillip. (Submitted photos)

Making tonight’s S-Factor finals at the Smyrna Opera House are, back row, from left, Liahona Schafferman, Megan Wolf, Lamont Pierce, Diego Boateng, Sean Pyle (alternate), and Jacquelyn Jonacha. Front row is Megan Wallace (alternate), left, and Kyra McKillip. (Submitted photos)

SMYRNA — It may not be “The X Factor,” but, at the Smyrna Opera House, the final round of the local singing competition — The S-Factor — steps off tonight.

Caleb Wolf, who won first place in the singing competition after he helped organize it at Smyrna High School last year, was determined to bring it back.

This time, it’s open to the whole community.

“It’s a great thing and it’s going to only get better,” said Mr. Wolf, a June Smyrna grad.

Mr. Wolf has been attached to The S-Factor from the start when, in his junior year, he and the other drama club officers were brainstorming ideas for fundraisers.

The club president suggested a singing competition — Mr. Wolf, then the vice president, said he helped lead the charge to set it up.

It was an opportunity “to use people’s God-given talents,” he said.

“I was like, ‘This is an opportunity to give vocalists some stature,’” he said.

“From then on,” Mr. Wolf added, “I was like, I want to continue this and have this be a part of my life.”

He also enjoyed competing himself. Mr. Wolf managed to make it to the last round, he recalled, even though he forgot the words to David Guetta’s “Titanium” in the semi-finals.

Shortly after that, his mother passed away. He dropped away from the production of the event to support his family.

He still came back, though, to perform in the finals; he chose to sing the classic “Lean on Me” and Demi Lovato’s “Skyscraper” and won the competition.

Changing lives

That was the night he knew the competition could change lives.

“It was just a moment where I was just singing to sing. It was like being in another world,” he said.

“Although it was hard with my mom passing, that moment was amazing.”

“I want to give people the opportunity to have that experience,” Mr. Wolf said.

In the spring of this year, though, it was hard for him to find support to bring The S-Factor to Smyrna High School again befor her graduated, he said.

“That’s when I decided for the summer that I would go find a venue … to put on the show, because it was really important to me to keep it going,” Mr. Wolf said.

The competition, which was open to high school and college-age contestants this year, consists of an audition, semi-finals with 12 contests and finals with six contestants. Winners are based on a combination of audience participation and judges’ scores.

In 2014, a portion of the proceeds from The S-Factor were donated to a the family of a Smyrna High School student who had been diagnosed with leukemia.

Helping NAMI Delaware

For this second year, Mr. Wolf wanted to continue to give back. He chose the National Alliance on Mental Illness in Delaware, He said he felt like there wasn’t enough understanding about mental illness or what it entailed. NAMI Delaware’s mission is to support, educate and advocate until there is a cure for severe and persistent mental illness.

Mr. Wolf knew the Smyrna Opera House would be the perfect venue for the show.

Every time he drove by it after he graduated, he wanted to stop and walk in. It was summer time, though, and Mr. Wolf was dressed down. He didn’t think he looked professional enough.

Caleb Wolf, a recent Smyrna High School graduate, is organizer and founder of The S-Factor.

Caleb Wolf, a recent Smyrna High School graduate, is organizer and founder of The S-Factor.

In June, his opportunity came when he was invited to a board meeting to receive a $500 scholarship from the Smyrna-Clayton Heritage Association. This time, he was wearing a blazer. It was the perfect time to make his pitch.

“We were talking that night and he had this idea. He wanted to hold a fundraiser for the NAMI organization. He asked us if we could help him with that project,” said board president Donna Cantillon.

“We talked to him a little bit more and we decided that we would be happy to support him in any way we could.”

In a meeting the next day, Mr. Wolf was offered the Smyrna Opera House and people to work the venue so that he could donate the proceeds to NAMI Delaware.

“It’s a partnership,” Ms. Cantillion said.

“We firmly believe…that we have to work with all nonprofit associations have to work with each other. We have to support each other.”

Contestants excited

Lamont Pierce, 16, a student at Dover High School, is one of the performers who will be competing at Smyrna Opera House tonight.

He found out about the program through Mr. Wolf, his resident assistant at the Governor’s School of Excellence summer program at the University of Delaware. It sounded like a great cause, and Lamont said he was excited to participate.

“It’s actually been really great and a really fun experience,” he said.

He said he’s planning to sing “Smash Into You” — “I’m a big Beyonce fan” — and “My Way” tonight.

Recording chance

Mr. Wolf said that as he was helping to tally the top six during the semifinals on July 31, The S-Factor got another big break.

One of the judges, Aaron Maloney, who owns a recording studio, turned to him and suggested they try to record an original song in the studio.

Mr. Wolf had hoped for an opportunity just like that — to record a song to become an anthem for NAMI Delaware and tackle the subject of mental illness. But without a recording studio, “it would have been a trainwreck,” he said.

“It was kind of like a God-given opportunity when he said, ‘Hey, do you want to do an original song?’” Mr. Wolf said.
“I was like yes, I do.”

Mr. Maloney wrote and produced “Fight of Your Life” with the top six contestants and two alternates to address mental illness, at the same time keeping it open for those who find regular struggles in their lives.

“It was very different,” Lamont said. “It was so cool to hear my voice back.”

He said he’s also “trying my hardest” to raise money for NAMI Delaware.

This year, along with cash prizes for each of the six finalists, Mr. Wolf is planning a prize package for whoever raises the most money for NAMI Delaware.

“Something I’ve added this year is the humanitarian award. I think that has the same caliber as first place,” he explained.

The award will include entry to Hershey Park, a Cold Stone Creamery gift card and movie tickets.

Although he has obtained donations and sponsorships for The S-Factor, Mr. Wolf said, some of the outside costs he’s paying out of his own pocket.

Expanding reach

Mr. Wolf, who will be attending heading to Sarah Lawrence College in Yonkers, N.Y., in two weeks, hopes to continue to build up The S-Factor.

He said he wants to turn the competition into a nonprofit organizatoin. He hopes to create a package that other theater groups and high schools can purchase to produce their own competition.

The money the nonprofit raises would help a different organization each year; organizers looking to produce an event could also help the cause of their choice.

“It’s like a chain reaction of being able to give back and help people,” Mr. Wolf said.

When he moves to New York, he said, he’s even thinking about bringing The S-Factor there — with the same name, as a homage to his roots.

“New York is a different market than Delaware,” he said.

“There’s going to be struggles there but I’ve always been able to overcome my struggles.”

Going into the final night of The S-Factor, he said he only feels humbled.

“I just want to thank everyone who’s helped me along the way,” Mr. Wolf said.

The final round of starts at 7 tonight, when the top six contestants will each perform two songs.

Along with Lamont, they are Jacquelyn Jonacha, Megan Wolf, Diego Boateng, Liahona Schafferman and Kyra Leigh McKillip.

Doors will open at 6:15 p.m.

Tickets cost $10. They’re available at www.smyrnaoperahouse.org and in person at the box office at 7 W. South St. You can also call 653-4236 to reserve tickets.

For more information, or to download “Fight of Your Life,” visit http://thesfactor-calebwolf.weebly.com/about.html.

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