By Molly Snyder Senior Writer Published Feb 26, 2004 at 5:23 AM

{image1}"Yesterday I had the pleasure of calling 10 of our contestants to inform them that they had made 'The Top 20,'" says Neil Willenson, one of two men behind Milwaukee's Rockstar Project.

"It was a real privilege listening to the cheering and enthusiastic responses from the contestants and their loved ones. Some of the contestants were moved to tears as they felt they had moved closer to fulfilling their dream of being in the music industry."

The Rockstar Project is the brainchild of Willenson and musician, songwriter and studio owner Kevin Sucher. Willenson created the show in light of "American Idol" and to give one Milwaukeean the opportunity to launch a music career.

In hope of achieving just that, more than 200 people auditioned this weekend at Time Warner Studios downtown and the Brass Bell music store in Glendale. Twenty were chosen as finalists.

"In the main audition room, the tension was thick," says Willenson. "When they worked through their fear and the results were positive, it was a huge victory for them."

The finalists are from all over Southeastern Wisconsin, including Milwaukee, West Bend, Waukesha, Whitewater, Grafton, Burlington, Racine, Hartland, Greendale, Greenfield, Delavan, South Milwaukee and Oconomowoc.

Starting the week of March 1, the 20 contestants will be narrowed down to a "Top 5" and announced on 94.5 WKTI's Reitman, Mueller and Amy Taylor Too show. On March 5, the "Top Five" winners will be snatched from work and immediately delivered to Sucher's downtown recording studio, The Laboratory, to produce a tape for Time Warner Cable's Channel 1111.

"From there, the public will vote via the Web site for 'The Final Two' and the ultimate 'Milwaukee Rockstar,'" says Willenson.

The winner of the Rockstar Project will be announced on March 26 and WKTI will play the winner's prerecorded single -- one of Sucher's original songs.

The new "Milwaukee Rockstar" will have numerous personal appearances and performances lined up, including singing the national anthem at a Bucks game, and Time Warner Cable will produce a music video.

Willenson is the founder and CEO of Camp Heartland, a Milwaukee-based national charity for children with HIV/AIDS.

"I have been afforded so many great opportunities in my young life that I really enjoy doing my best to help open the doors for young people," he says. "For a few talented individuals, The Rockstar Project may be the stepping stone they need to reach their goals."

For more information, including the list of finalists, go to

Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.

Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.