Senior Idol finalist to perform today at Ruth Eckerd
Reuben and Olga Morales watch the performance that earned him a spot in the Bright House Networks Bright Stars Senior Idol Competition. STAFF
BY GARY S. HATRICK Tribune correspondent
Published: March 31, 2013
Updated: April 1, 2013 at 09:09 AM
A San Antonio man will take to the Ruth Eckerd Hall stage in Clearwater on Monday as a finalist in the Bright House Networks Bright Stars Senior Idol Competition. Reuben Morales, 62, won a preliminary show held Feb. 15 at River Ridge High in New Port Richey qualifying him for the final show. According to Bright House, the audience will vote for a winner. Winners receive $500 for themselves and $500 for their favorite charity. The top acts from four regional shows will be part of the entertainment at the Senior Idol competition, which is open to seniors 55 and older. The competition helps raise money for senior charities in the Tampa Bay area.
Morales, who is retired and a cancer survivor, lives in the Tampa Bay Golf and Country Club development. He has lived in Florida for 12 years after a lifetime in the Bronx. Music has been part of his life since he was about 10 years old. “I started taking piano lessons as a kid,” he said. “As a young teen I got a scholarship to the Carnegie Hall school and I went to high school and graduated from the High School of Music and Performing Arts. In high school he began singing. He took piano for his parents, he said, but singing was what he enjoyed most. He was chosen to sing in New York City's All City's Boys Choir. After high school he wandered from his singing onto the baseball field. He joined the Caribbean League and spent a year in Puerto Rico wanting to break into professional baseball. “That was my dream, but I always sang in the shower,” he said with a chuckle. By the time he had some bites from the Philadelphia Phillies and the New York Yankees, he said his life had taken a different direction. He had married his wife, Olga, and had started a family. He studied to be a medical technician and became head of the Anesthesia Medical Support Team at New York University Medical Center. While in college, he was a lead vocalist with a do-wop group formed by his wife's brothers. He played in piano bars in mid-town Manhattan and explored some interest by record companies, but in the end felt it wasn't meant to be. In 1989, Morales experienced a conversion to Christianity and joined the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir. With the choir he had the opportunity to sing at venues such as Madison Square Garden, Rockefeller Center and Radio City Music Hall. Later he helped form a bilingual/Spanish ensemble that toured South America, preaching the gospel in song for four or five years. He also sang as a Christian soloist. Ten years later, he was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, and, as a result, in December 1999 had two ribs removed. Retired medically because of his bout with cancer, Morales and his wife moved to Florida 12 years ago. After entering and winning a karaoke competition at the Tampa Bay Golf and Country Club, he began to take part in other local karaoke nights while singing for other cancer victims at the Hope Lodge, adjacent to the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center. Someone suggested during a karaoke night that he enter the Bright House Networks contest that qualified him for Monday's competition, but no matter how he does, he still isn't finished. “I have a new venture,” he said. This one has far-reaching possibilities. While searching online he saw the Karaoke World Championships USA and auditioned with them in Fort Lauderdale. He passed the audition and will be a finalist in a show in Plantation on April 25. If he wins there, he would represent Florida in a competition in Los Angeles. Success there would take him to Finland for potential world acclaim. But that's all later. For now he is concentrating on Monday.