From Berklee girl to ‘Idol’ threat

Berklee grad Ashley Rodriguez has been called a “front-runner’’ by “American Idol’’ judge Simon Cowell. Berklee grad Ashley Rodriguez has been called a “front-runner’’ by “American Idol’’ judge Simon Cowell. (Berklee College of Music)
By Mark Shanahan & Meredith Goldstein
February 11, 2010

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If it’s not already, Berklee College of Music should consider using “American Idol’’ as a recruiting tool for students. No fewer than four recent Berklee grads are competing in “Hollywood Week,’’ the series of “Idol’’ shows airing this week and next. (The wannabes are all invited to the West Coast after passing their initial auditions.) One of the Berklee alums is Chelsea’s own Ashley Rodriguez, who was on Tuesday’s show and made it to the next round. (Simon Cowell has called her a “front-runner.’’) Berklee City Music executive director Curtis Warner said he met Ashley when she was 16, and he knew immediately she was special. “From the moment she stepped in the door,’’ Warner told us yesterday. “Of course, she’s matured a lot over the six years she was with us. She was a good singer, but now she’s a great singer.’’ He said Rodriguez, who attended Berklee on a scholarship, is a confident young woman who used to pitch potential donors to the Berklee City Music program. “Once, the kids opened for Chaka Khan and Ashley sang a Chaka Khan tune. That takes confidence,’’ said Warner. “Simon has really sung her praises, and he doesn’t do that easily.’’ The other Berklee grads included in “Hollywood Week’’ are Jess Wolfe, Jennifer Hirsh, and Bosa Mora.

Adams, Sortun join ‘Top Chef Masters’
Bravo has announced the list of contestants on the second season of “Top Chef Masters,’’ and lucky for us, two locals are on the list. Rialto chef Jody Adams and Oleana’s Ana Sortun will compete against 20 other chefs, including Susur Lee from Madeline’s in Toronto, Marcus Samuelsson from the Red Rooster in New York City, and Rick Moonen of Rick Moonen’s RM Seafood at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. The second season premieres in April. Boston had a presence on the first season of the show; Radius chef Michael Schlow got kicked off during the first episode. Adams, who checked in with us yesterday, said she didn’t see Schlow compete, but has high hopes for herself. She says she’s “scared, excited, intimidated, and confident.’’ She also told us that her kids convinced her to do the show. “My son said to me, ‘Mom, it’s going to be kind of obvious if you wimp out.’ ’’ Adams was supposed to spend yesterday cooking with kids at the Wheeler School in Providence, but the event at her alma mater was canceled because of the snowy forecast. Instead, Adams spent the afternoon buying ingredients to cook her mom a birthday dinner. The menu? Cod with shrimp sauce, turnip ginger puree, and kale.

Kilmer talks ‘Twain’
Actor Val Kilmer is in town tonight to talk about his new movie that follows the relationship between author Mark Twain and Mary Baker Eddy, who founded the Christian Science church in Boston in 1879. Not surprisingly, it is called “Mark Twain and Mary Baker Eddy.’’ Kilmer, who produced the film and cast himself as Twain, will speak at the Mary Baker Eddy Library about the project. The event was sold out but overflow seats were available.

Name recognition
Ever wondered about Yo-Yo Ma’s name? He has. Now, thanks to Henry Louis Gates Jr., the celebrated cellist has some answers. On his new PBS miniseries “Faces of America’’ - the show debuted last night - Gates reveals results of DNA detective work that shows Yo-Yo Ma’s name actually dates back 225 years. The tale involves the Qing Dynasty, the Cultural Revolution, and the Chinese Communist Party. And here Ma just figured it was an unusual family name. “Either my parents had a sick sense of humor - they did know that Yo-Yo was the name of a toy - or they had no more ideas, and they just said OK, ‘Yo-Yo.’ ’’

$100K donation for Haiti
The effort to rebuild Haiti got another boost yesterday when Wilmer Ruperti, chief executive of the Venezuelan company Maroil Trading and Global Ship Management, contributed $100,000 to the Haiti Relief and Reconstruction Fund. The gift, announced at a meeting of the Boston Foundation, brought the fund total to $2 million, said the fund’s cofounder Karen Keating Ansara. Yesterday’s speaker was Pulitzer Prize winner Tracy Kidder, author of “Mountains Beyond Mountains,’’ about Dr. Paul Farmer’s work in Haiti. Also there was Emilio Estefan, Grammy-award winner and husband of singer Gloria Estefan.

Team Gisele
Boston’s most famous new mom, Gisele Bundchen, now has a theme song. Months ago, Mrs. Tom Brady signed on to star in a new Web series on AOL, which would feature an animated version of herself (GiGi), who’s a supermodel and superhero environmentalist. The show, which will be called “GiGi & the Green Team,’’ is supposed to kick off sometime soon, but the theme song for the Web show is already online. We listened, and here are the lyrics. Watch out, they get in your head.

Go! Go! Go!

Girl power, spread the green, love the planet keep it clean.

We’ll be glowing as a team. Go, go, go!

Nothing slick will get by, our powers unify

Spread the love, glamorize

Eco and rechargeable, we keep the planet magical.

With style and grace we make our mark, all for one we can’t be stopped.

Gisele and the green team, Gisele and the green team (x4)

Go green, green team!

Pedroia, tire pitchman
Sox guy Dustin Pedroia was in Arizona over the weekend to film commercials for local company Sullivan Tire. The ads will air next month.

It's all water under the bridge
The Bay State’s new senator, Scott Brown, and his wife, Channel 5’s Gail Huff, attended opening night of “Grease’’ at the National Theatre in Washington Tuesday. And who should they run into but season five “American Idol’’ winner Taylor Hicks (center). So what, you say? Brown and Huff’s daughter, Ayla, was a semifinalist on season five of “Idol.’’ Judging from the smiles, there are no hard feelings.

Lockhart gift
Pops conductor Keith Lockhart this week presented $100,000 worth of musical instruments to four Boston public schools as part of Fidelity FutureStage 2010. (The annual “Idol’’-like FutureStage competition gives local high school students the opportunity to perform with the Pops.) Over 200 students from Boston Arts Academy, Boston Latin Academy, Cambridge Rindge and Latin, and the Roland Hayes School of Music were on hand to accept the instruments.

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