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Harvard Idol: Student and Alumni Compete in Hollywood

By Eliza M. Nguyen, Crimson Staff Writer

Madison A. Greer ’13 says her dream is to be the next Michael Jackson. On Feb. 28, she might just get that chance.

Greer has been selected as one of three finalists in the annual Harvard ROCKS competition—a singing contest presented by Harvardwood, an artist network whose membership is open to Harvard students, alumni, faculty, and staff.

Kelley N. Purcell ’02, executive director of Harvardwood, said that the competition is meant to promote Harvard-affiliated performers.

“It’s not your average battle of the bands competition,” Purcell said.

For the final round, the contestants must perform live in West Hollywood for a panel including President of Fox Music Robert Kraft, Chief Operating Officer of Live Nation Ben Weeden, and last year’s Harvard ROCKS winner, Rachel A. Brown ’10. The winner will be decided by votes cast at the show and online by ticket-buyers.

Todd A. Forman ’92 and Sara B. Melson ’90 will compete along with Greer in the final round. All three artists said they plan on playing original music for the final performance.

To prepare for the live show, Greer, an English concentrator in Quincy House, said she has been practicing her songs three times a week for three hours.

“It’s me being the performer and the producer and the arranger all in one,” she said.

Greer said that she has always wanted to pursue a career as an artist because her family has a strong musical background.

Greer’s father is a jazz musician, and her mother sings and plays classical piano.

“I’m the girl who always said ‘I want to be a star,’” said Greer. “I have never stopped wanting to do that.”

Greer’s competitors have more than a few years on her and a fair amount of professional music experience.

Forman once played saxophone for Sublime, a ’90s punk band from California. Ultimately, he left behind his musical ambitions to focus on his wife and family, he said.

Forman, who was a member of the Hasty Pudding Theatricals and participated in musical theater while at Harvard, said he has always been passionate about music.

“I wouldn’t say I always wanted to be a professional musician,” said Forman, now a family physician who runs a practice with his mother. “But it has always been a goal of mine to have music be a part of my life.”

Melson chose to pursue acting after college, but she said that her true passion is music.

“I loved acting, but I felt like the things I was doing felt artistically not as inspiring as they could be,” she said. “Spiritually, I had more to say, and I felt like singing might be more of my medium.”

Melson was signed to a record label, but restructuring within the production company led to the cancellation of a publicity campaign for her first album, which was released several years ago.

Melson said Harvard ROCKS will give her another shot to market her music and gain exposure.

Voters are required to purchase a ticket to the final competition or pay the equivalent amount for a ticket online.

The online system is now open, and Greer said she has been encouraging her peers to vote for her.

Greer said she thinks that the ticket price—$6 for Harvardwood members and $8 for non-members—might deter students from voting.

“I’m not going to force people to pay,” she said. “I’m just trying to be as understanding as possible and just asking people to do this favor for me.”

The Harvardwood web site calls the contest’s grand prize, which includes soundtrack consideration from Fox Music and performance consideration from LiveNation, the “ultimate music industry prize package.”

The three artists said they are grateful for the opportunity that Harvard ROCKS has given them.

“It’s a great way to show that Harvard does rock,” Forman said.

—Jane Seo contributed to the reporting of this story.

—Staff writer Eliza M. Nguyen can be reached at

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