By Nancy R. Elliott
The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. —
It’s quite possible there’s a star being born right here in Anderson.
Hoosier Park’s Idol All-In contest is underway, tempting local talent to take the stage and see if they have what it takes. When all is said and done, one competitor will walk away with $2,500, a studio recording session and a gig at Hoosier Park.
Last week, 27 brave souls came seeking a spot on the audition stage. After prescreening, 22 of those people got to compete by belting out their version of a pop, rock, or country song in front of an audience and the judges. This is the third year for the Idol competition at Hoosier Park, and the first time it is open to multiple genres.
Another group of Idol wannabes auditioned last night, and a final group will go before the judges on May 2. Each time, three singers are selected for the semi-final competition on May 16.
“I’m very nervous,” said Amanda Robinson. It was a sentiment shared by many of her competitors. Robinson made the trip from Royal Center, with her soon-to-be husband, Rick Benn.
“She sings good, really good,” said Benn. “I think she’s got a really great chance of winning.”
Judges were looking for three things: vocal ability, stage presence and marketability. They were very forthcoming in their critiques.
Michelle Belle Cook, of the professional country music duo Cook & Belle, and Anderson artist development professional Mark Pay were experienced Hoosier Idol judges. Gaither Studio sound engineer Chad Evans was new to the judging trio.
“We just have to be really honest,” said Cook.
Robinson made the cut with her a cappella rendition of “Independence Day” by Martina McBride. She was first up on the stage with the mic later in the evening when the auditions launched.
Each competitor paid $25 to secure an audition spot. Hoosier Park events and entertainment manager Adam Kallick said the fees go to United Way, but help to draw out only the serious contenders.
Ultimately, judges heard performances that spanned from Pink Floyd to Etta James to Chris Young. Performers belted, cooed and crooned to a warm audience that sometimes erupted in applause or appreciative hoots.
When all the dust settled last week, three semifinalists were left standing.
“I’m very excited. It’s a great opportunity,” said Michael Thomas, who sang “Fix You” by Coldplay. The Anderson native now resides in Indianapolis, and attends school with his eye on a degree in the music field.
“I’m excited to sing with a live band and put it all out there,” said Thomas.
Layke Jones snagged a semifinalist spot with “God Bless the Broken Road” by Rascal Flatts. The Anderson University freshman, who hails from Anderson, is taking the judges’ comments to heart.
“They really hear some soul in my voice,” said Jones. He’s planning to play that to his advantage by choosing a different song to showcase it. The music major has sung at show choir and marching band.
Hailey Earp, another AU student, performed her own version of “Never Getting Back Together” by Taylor Swift.
“She’s kind of folky-pop genre,” said Kallick. “She has her own sound — very unique.”
After next week’s final audition, the nine semifinalists will compete on May 16, accompanied by the Cook and Belle band. Then, May 25 at 10 p.m. the three vocalists left standing will give it their all as they seek to be this year’s Idol.