by Larry Austin
Young Island singers have a new outlet for their talents.
Pizza Amoré, along with Sunoco and Dunkin Donuts, have started Islander John Dudley's Parrot Karaoke for kids between 6 and 16 years of age. Kids Karaoke runs every Thursday night from 6 to 9 p.m.
The idea to offer karaoke at Sunoco/Dunkin Donuts/Pizza Amoré (2024 Grand Island Blvd.) belongs to Dave Perri, owner/operator of Pizza Amoré.
"The reason why I did it is because everyone's always saying there's nothing for kids to do on the Island, nothing free," Perri said.
Not any more. Perri, Dunkin' Donuts and Sunoco worked together to bring in Dudley, who has been offering karaoke for 15 years.
"Basically, we didn't want to make any money at it, but we wanted kids to come here, feel safe, in a place where they can come and sing for free," Perri said.
In fact, the event is more than free because kids can earn coffee coupons from Dunkin' Donuts, and each singer receives $1 "Karaoke Bucks," redeemable at Pizza Amoré.
"Some kids will sing five, six times so they can get a free pizza," Perri said.
Dudley runs a popular adult karaoke at another Island restaurant on Friday nights. The kid version started about seven weeks ago. Dudley said that, from his experience, karaoke is an avenue to provide participants with the joy of performing. He called karaoke "an affirmation of what you like to do."
Dudley said some of the kids will sing all day, every day if given the chance. Embarrassment isn't something the kids need to worry about, either, because this karaoke isn't competitive, Dudley said.
"These are people just having fun. They're not being judged," he said. "As a matter of fact, some of the best performances are by people who hardly can sing. When they get up there, they put on a bit of a show, you know? They get excited and they get everybody wound up."
"Sometimes the kids help each other out, especially the young ones," Perri added. He noted that the enterprise will continue for another six weeks.
The karaoke night, which has drawn as many as 30 on a Thursday night, has its own regular group of singers, even one from Williamsville who brings her grandparents.
"Anybody can come; it's not just for the people on the Island. But we want the Islanders to support it. It's something fun," Perri said.
"Everybody that comes here says it's a great idea because it's someplace for the kids to do something free," Perri said.
Every once in a while a mom will try to get up at the end of the night to sing, Perri said, until the younger singers set her straight.
"And the kids get really mad. 'This is for us, not for you!'"
One person you won't see at the microphone singing is Perri.
"I don't have the voice for it, so I leave it to the professionals," Perri said. "I might sing when there's nobody here, but I don't want to embarrass my kids, because all my kids work here."