'Telethon Idol' auditions raise funds for children's center

Sunday, March 18, 2007
Twenty-year-old Kate Finley of Portageville, Mo., performed Saturday during the Kenny Rogers Children's Center "Telethon Idol" auditions at West Park Mall in Cape Girardeau. Finley was selected as one of 25 to perform in the KRCC's "Telethon Idol" next weekend.

Three judges based their decisions on vocal quality, vocal control, choice of song and stage presence.

The Kenny Rogers Children's Center held auditions Saturday at the J.C. Penney Court at West Park Mall for its "telethon idol" contest to be held March 24 and 25 at the Sikeston Field House in Sikeston, Mo.

Last year the telethon raised $264,000. This year's goal is $300,000. Thirty people auditioned in the first hour. Only 25 will be selected to perform on the 27th annual telethon at Sikeston Field House March 24 -- but the center's director, Michelle Fayette, said they were prepared to take auditions all day long and into the night.

Fifteen-year-old Kevin Harbison of Matthews, Mo., auditioned with the Billy Gillman song "Everything and More." He won first place in last year's SEMO District Fair Heartland Idol competition and has been performing since he was 3. But the reason he came out Saturday was for his best friend, Sam Barnett. Her baby, Gianna, born almost a year ago, gets physical therapy at the Kenny Rogers Children's Center. The baby had spinal meningitis and may have brain damage.

Voices big and small

Harbison said that before Sam's baby went to the center he didn't know much about the Kenny Rogers Children's Center. "I knew they helped children, but I learned they did more than I thought they did. They also raise money for research," he said.

Fayette said, "Last year was the first time we really had the Field House packed. I think the contest is so successful because although everyone has options on Saturday nights, moms, grandmas, grandpas and family members support the performers and it really helps. We're out to raise money so we're not limiting the amount a supporter can donate in honor of their favorite performer. The minimum pledge is $5.

"We wanted to open it up this year. Last year we went around to music teachers and listened to auditions at individual places. Only 12 contestants auditioned."

Three judges based their decisions on vocal quality, vocal control, choice of song and stage presence. About 70 people sat on benches, chairs or leaned where they could, listening to the primarily country renditions, sung a cappella.

Marie Claye of Jackson waited on a bench and listened while her daughter-in-law shopped. "I recognized about three of the 15 or 16 songs I've heard so far. Some are pretty good, some I can't understand a word."

Interference from the everyday sounds in the mall drowned out some singers while others confidently belted out their lyrics.

Stacey Holman sang a Miranda Lambert song, "Kerosene." A single mother of two girls, Holman recently took second place at the Colgate Country Showdown in September at Sikeston.

Record company audition

Holman has recorded in Nashville and has tons of friends and family here. She picked lucky "7" -- $7,000 -- as her fund-raising goal for the Kenny Rogers Children's Center if she makes the cut. She said that auditioning on St. Patrick's Day and the fact that tomorrow is her birthday was her reason for picking lucky 7.

On the flipside, Lauren Duckett of Malden, Mo., said she'd never thought about how much she could raise. Her supporters would be "the town of Malden. You know, church, family, friends," she said.

Although she's never sung for money, she did try out for American Idol in September and made it to the top 80 in Memphis. "I got to meet Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson." Duckett set her goal at raising $1,500 if she made the cut. "It's for a good cause. Why not help if you can?"

Telethon winners will be determined by combining the judges' scores and the dollar amounts raised by each contestant. Scoring and fund-raising each count for 50 percent in determining winners.

Winners will have the opportunity to audition for Evergreen Records in Nashville, Tenn.

Contestants need not be in attendance to be selected for telethon participation. Those not present will be notified by phone no later than Monday.

The Kenny Rogers Children's Center serves more than 300 children with special needs from Scott, New Madrid, Mississippi, Stoddard, Butler, Cape Girardeau, Perry, Pemiscot, Dunklin and Bollinger counties. For more information, call (573) 472-0409 or e-mail krcc@charter.net

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