“It’s crazy cool and I am very excited,” said Hoschander in a phone interview from Israel. “It’s been a great experience and everyone is really nice. I am excited to have made it this far and we’ll see what happens.”
Hoschander, 29, released a solo album “Dov: The Gift.” A video he shot in Israel for his song, “Hu Yivarech” has garnered nearly 74,000 hits on YouTube. He said he came up with the idea when speaking to his aunt about the psychological aspects of being a mother and knowing that your son may be in danger while serving the Army.
“She said the Israeli mothers never really sleep well when their sons are out,” he said. “So I thought the song would be a good tribute for the soldiers and their families.”
Hoschander, who lives on the Upper West Side, will perform the Zohar Argov’s “Badad.” It is a song about loneliness but Hoschander worked with an arranger to give it a more pop-rock feel. No stranger to big crowds, as he has performed at Lincoln Center and Shea Stadium, he’s also performed with and served as the president of Tizmoret of Queens College. He also sang the “Hatikvah” at the Celebrate Israel Parade. Hoschander said he’s ready for the finals and he added that the competition is stiff.
“There’s a lot of great talent here,” he said.
Simmons, who lives in Gramercy, said she feels a slew of emotions going Saturday night’s finals.
“I’m thrilled, I’m terrified and I’m excited,” she said in a phone interview from Israel. “For me, I always stress about remembering the lyrics. Up till the day I die, every time I sing, I’ll be going through the lyrics in my head right up until I start singing.”
The 22-year-old doesn’t know much Hebrew, but had been taking classes at the Jewish Enrichment Center in Manhattan. On her Taglit-Birthright Israel trip in February, she sang in Caesarea and found out about the competition. She’ll be singing Rita’s “Ani Chaya Li Meyom Leyom” which is a song about a girl who laments being single at any age when many others are married. When she competes in the finals, Simmons may get a few marriage proposals. The blond singer graduated from Marymount Manhattan College with a degree in musical theater. She said she recently recorded a song for an Abercrombie & Fitch campaign. She’s also performed at Town Hall in Manhattan.
“I love singing and it’s so great to be here in Israel,” she said. “It’s been great to meet people from different places and my family will be here for the competition.”
The contest, now in its second year, has an age restriction of those from 18 to 30. To qualify, contestants sent in a video audition. Simmons sent in her version of Etta James’ “At Last” while Hoschander opted for “I Won’t Give Up” by Jason Mraz.
Singers were given a list of songs to pick from for the semi-finals, which they’d also sing in the finals if they made it. Both said they’d never heard the song they picked before the competition. Hoschander said picking the right song is obviously crucial.
“Even if you’re a great singer, you have to pick a song that’s appropriate and shows off your voice and highlights your strengths,” he said. “Just like they say on ‘American Idol,’ sometimes people don’t pick the right song and they go home.”
But unlike American Idol, singers that did not make the cut still live with the others in house in Kfar Hayarok. The top three contestants will receive cash prizes. The winner will also record a song that will be played on national Israeli radio. Hoschander, whose family will also be there to cheer him on said being in the competition, was one of the best experiences of his life.
Last year’s winner was Adam Kleinberg, who sang “Lo Kal” by Hayehudim. A documentary is being made on this year’s competition. To see last year’s documentary and for more information, go to halleluja.org.il