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Student sings of love for national contest

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

By Carmen M. Hubbard

ST. FRANCIS DE SALES — Songs about love and peace are Claire Piorkowski’s favorite kind to sing. As luck, or God, would have it, the 11-year-old from Hyde Park is a finalist in a national singing contest to help spread the message of harmony and remind others to make the world a better place.

Piorkowski will be among the five contestants who will compete in Build-A-Bear’s “Let’s Talk About Love” contest in Hollywood, Calif., on June 24. A panel of celebrity judges from the music industry will determine the winner who will receive a $10,000 cash prize and a chance to record the song “Let’s Talk About Love.”

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Claire Piorkowski poses with her brother, James, 6, and parents, Julie and Mark. (CT/Carmen M. Hubbard)

“This is one thing I’m really good at. I feel like God gave me a gift and that makes me feel good,” Piorkowski said.

The Build-A-Bear song was inspired by their “Love. Hugs. Peace.” Movement, which is geared toward empowering children to make the world a better place by pledging to perform small acts of kindness.

Piorkowski said she sent a videotaped audition of herself singing “Let’s Talk About Love” to Build-A-Bear at the suggestion of her aunt. Three weeks later,  she and her family were notified that she had been selected as a one of the top 10 semifinalists based on the majority of online votes on the Build-A-Bear website.

Contestants could choose to sing the song a cappella or with musical accompaniment, which they could download courtesy of Build-A-Bear.

“We’re very proud of Claire,” Julie Piorkowski said of her daughter. “I like that she’s willing to share her gift.”

Piorkowski and her mother helped spread the word about her participation in the contest via email and Facebook, encouraging their friends, relatives and fellow members of St. Mary Parish in Hyde Park to vote.

Her father, Mark Piorkowski, said he’s happy for his daughter and her great opportunity.

“When you hear Claire sing a song for the first time, it’ll be totally different when you hear her sing the same song by the 15th time,” he said. “She really works on it.”

Father Paul Ruwe, pastor of St. Mary, said the first time he heard Piorkowski sing he was surprised.

“I was stunned by the powerful voice by a little girl,” he said. “I’m very excited for Claire. She’s an extremely talented girl.”

Piorkowski will be in the sixth-grade this fall at the parish school. She has received vocal lessons from master voice teacher Marilyn Zelcer for the past five years. She sings soprano in the St. Mary Choir and serves as a cantor at Saturday Mass and school liturgies. She also sings musical theater in the Cincinnati Children’s Choir and the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music Preparatory Department and has voice recitals at the Musical Arts Center. In addition, Piorkowksi has taken classical piano lessons from teacher Yejin Han for almost four years. She said she practices voice and piano at home at least every other day.

Piorkowski said singing the Build-A-Bear contest song was the first time she developed a song with a set of lyrics and musical arrangement already provided. She usually creates songs based on her own lyrics.

“If we treat each other equally and do acts of kindness, the world would be a better, kinder place,” she said of the Build-A-Bear contest and its theme. “We shouldn’t think we’re better (than others). We’re people just like you.”

Julie Piorkowski remembers her daughter tweaking the song to make it her own.

“She could hear where (the chorus of the Build-A-Bear song) would repeat. She just kept working on it until it sounded right. She (also) talked to her music teacher,” she said.

Piorkowski wants be a contemporary pop singer and perform musical theater when she grows up. She said when people hear her sing, she hopes to inspire them.

“I want to make them feel happy they came to Mass that day. I’m being the best I can be and giving them the best I have,” she said.

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