The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Local News

March 21, 2014

Talent competition shifts focus to youth

A chance to avoid a lifetime of “what ifs” and unfulfilled standing ovation fantasies is happening Saturday at Cheap Thrills Records, the second of three Beckley auditions determining who will move one step closer to being named West Virginia’s Finest Talent.

The third and final Raleigh County audition is April 12 from 2 to 4 p.m. at Dickey’s Barbecue Pit, Lester Square.

Lady D’s (aka Doris Fields’) 2014 statewide vocal competition is set to prove talent is not wasted on the young. With the entrant age moving this year from any age to ages 10 to 17 only, the event is focused on identifying young vocal talent and giving it an early opportunity to shine both here and beyond.

“I want the kids to see there is work behind a career in music. It’s not a matter of ‘I think I can sing, so I’ll get up on stage and everybody’s going to love me.’ It doesn’t work that way,” said Lady D.

Another change in store for 2014 is her decision to include mentoring sessions for competitors before the July 12 finals at Tamarack.

“I wanted to do more with the contestants this time. We are organizing groups of working vocalists to coach them on the songs. Those mentors will decide who will go on to the semi-finals,” she explained. “They’ll get technical and artistic advice from people who actually do this for a living.”

Mentors include Susanna Robinson-Kenga, a Lewisburg-based jazz singer; Shayla Leftridge with Hybrid Soul Project of Charleston; Melissa McKinney, owner of Stages Music School, Princeton and a blues singer; and Andre Williams, a two-time West Virginia’s Finest Talent winner having success opening for “America’s Got Talent” winner Landau Eugene Murphy Jr. and with experience performing in venues like Las Vegas.

To pick a competition show that has most inspired her during the last six years of revising West Virginia’s Finest Talent competitions, she’d have to say “The Voice,” although Lady D admits to watching “The X Factor” last season to support contender and homegrown favorite Colton Pack.

“Honestly, I’m not a big fan of competition. I do see the format giving kids a chance to be on stage in front of people and to work on their craft. It gives them a chance to find out ‘Is this really what I want to do?’”

Along with the glory of the title, the two finalists, one from the 10-13 age range and one from the 14-17 age range, will each receive a $500 cash prize, a recording session with Dan Bailey’s Elm Ridge Productions and a photo shoot with Steve Brightwell Photography.

Winners will also take the stage to open at as the opening acts at the 2nd Annual Simply Jazz and Blues Festival at Sandstone Drift, Hinton.

A final unique aspect of this year’s competition is that funds raised after expenses will go toward supporting the Aug. 1-3 festival, named after Lady D’s popular Sunday evening radio show on Groovy 94.1 FM.

At the April 12 Dickey’s audition, Lady D is hosting a West Virginia’s Finest showcase from 5 to 8 p.m., featuring past contestant favorites and winners and earning 15 percent of the day’s sales to support the Simply Jazz and Blues Festival.

Simply Jazz and Blues, both the radio show and festival, continue the musician’s commitment to bringing alternative styles of music to West Virginia and to keeping the tradition of jazz and blues alive in America.

Jazz and blues is Lady D’s passion, but she’ll take West Virginia’s finest vocal talent from any genre, as long as the performer is serious about launching a music career.

“I have people call me all the time asking for talent, for people who can sing the National Anthem for events or for singers for festivals. I put singers in at the Rocket Boys Festival in the fall. Any time anyone needs a singer, they know I have a list of good people I work with,” she stated.

Of the auditions at hand, “… all are open,” said Fields, adding that contestants should call ahead to 304-222-2536 or e-mail wvfinest@yahoo.com to reserve their time slots.

— E-mail lshrewsberry@register-herald.com

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