News-Sun photo by KATARA SIMMONS 13-year-old Cammie Lester belts out a country hit Thursday evening during the Teen Heartland Idol qualifying round. Lester, and four other contestants, will return this week to the Idol semi-final round to showcase their talents once again for audience and judges.
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published: Sunday, February 10, 2013
Idol contestants wow judges
By SAMANTHA GHOLAR
SEBRING - In its first night back after a brief hiatus, the beloved local singing contest, Heartland Idol, gave audience members just a small taste of what they've been missing.
In its new home at the Highlands County YMCA, Heartland Idol drew close to 250 attendees on its first night of the season Thursday. The qualifying round for the junior and teen divisions was jam-packed with talent and provided plenty of entertainment for guests.
The junior qualifiers included 11 singers each who took the stage to sing their rendition of their chosen song. The junior division was open for contestants ages 12 and younger.
A spectrum of songs were thrown out at the crowd including an '80s pop hit, a classic show tune and of course the most popular soul-singer on the air waves today, Adele.
Their voices, though not as strong as their teen counterparts, were enough to grab the attention of the six-judge panel who tallied up their scores quickly and chose the top six semi-finalist: Shelby Stoner, 10, Zolfo Springs; Ashdon Dennison, 7, Avon Park; Mariah Finney, 12, AP; Abigail Smith, 12, Sebring; Kalie Christian, 12, Sebring; and Hailey McDonough, 7, Sebring.
Those that passed on to the next round were thrilled to have made it to the semi-finals and were given words of encouragement from a few of the judges.
"You did a lot of things right. I like that you have stage presence. You've set the bar and you've won my ear. I like you," long-time judge Larry Moore said of semi-finalist Ashdon Dennison.
Semi-finalist Abigail Smith entertained judges with her '80s outfit and her rendition of the classic hit "Girls Just Want to Have Fun", but past Idol winner and guest judge Shannon Reed offered words of encouragement to the nervous singer.
"I know you have a bigger voice in there. You need to let that bigger voice out. It's bigger than what we saw here tonight, so go for it. Have fun and knock 'em dead," Reed said.
Each of the semi-finalists will return next week to compete once again for an advancement to the finals round later this month.
The teen division qualifier came as a huge shock and a breath of fresh air, not only to the judges but the audience as well.
Many familiar faces and voices were among the nine contestants, of which five were chosen to move on to the semi-finals next week.
Judges were in awe of the huge amount of talent that graced the stage Thursday night and had a tough time deciding between each of the nine all female contestants.
"We have a tie for second place," emcee Don Elwell announced. "Two scores of 172 out of a possible 180 total points."
After a few minutes of careful calculating, the judges announced the semi-finalists in the teen division. Nala Price, 14, Sebring; Alex Hornick, 14, Sebring; Olivia Hitt, 17, Sebring; Sarenna Stoner, 13, Sebring; and Cammie Lester, 13, Sebring, each advanced to next week's competition round.
The 90-second acapellas from each of the girls was enough to bring several of the judges close to speechlessness, though they managed to get a few small words out numerous times.
"Oh, this is going to be fun. I like it when there's a fight; this should be fun. You've set the bar ... you came out here and you sang," Moore said of former Junior Idol winner Nala Price.
Though Price is a local favorite with a well-loved and well-known voice, the judges were pleasantly surprised to hear outstanding performances from every one of the young ladies.
Sarenna Stoner blew away the judges with her soulful voice and quirky personality. Stoner belted out Adele's hit "Someone Like You" in her own unique way. leaving the judges with nothing but positive things to say.
"The simplicity of what you did was amazing. I felt like there was nobody else here and you were singing just to me. I'm going to give you some advice: stay true to yourself. Don't ever let anyone change you or try to sway you in any way. You have a beautiful voice and amazing personality, remember that," Reed said following Stoner's performance.
A repetitive and excited Moore was thrilled at the fact that each of the contestants had a true talent Thursday night. Moore's excitement led him to boast that this year's contest would be great because "No one sucks".
Audience members agreed. Several attendees could be heard throughout the crowd raving about the amazing voices of not only the semi-finalists but the entire Teen Idol division.
"These young ladies have made me love this county again. I've dealt with talent all over the world but I am blown away by this talent tonight on this stage right here. This is going to be so fun," Moore exclaimed.
Junior and Teen Heartland Idol semi-finals round will take place Thursday, Feb. 14. The music kicks off at 6 p.m. The special Valentine's Day Idol will feature celebrity guest judge and music superstar Tommy Brandt as well as special Valentine's Day serenades from cover band Scarlet Fade.
Entry fee into Heartland Idol is free. The Heartland Idol Cafe will continue to serve up delicious hot dogs, burgers and other food items for various prices. Lawn chairs, blankets and seats are encouraged to be brought.
For more information visit the Heartland Idol Facebook page.
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