11 fi­nal­ists ready to shine at Or­pheum Star Search

The Commercial Appeal - Go Memphis - - Stage - By Christo­pher Blank

Spe­cial to The Com­mer­cial Ap­peal

Though pageants and tal­ent shows have al­ways been a part of South­ern life, the Or­pheum Star Search is still among the newer ways a tal­ented kid can get no­ticed.

Since 2003, the the­ater has au­di­tioned hun­dreds of teenagers each year and brought the best of them be­fore a big panel of judges.

The lat­est hope­fuls, in­clud­ing two clas­si­cal mu­si­cians and a slew of singers who cover ev­ery­thing from jazz stan­dards to soul hits, vie Satur­day night. Un­like other tal­ent com­pe­ti­tions, fi­nal­ists at the Or­pheum get to sing with a live band.

For some com­peti­tors, Or­pheum Star Search has of­fered a chance to hone mu­si­cal skills that will likely stay with them all their lives.

Last year’s win­ner, Bran­don Bai­ley, now a bio­chem­istry ma­jor at the Uni­ver­sity of Mem­phis, took up the har­mon­ica se­ri­ously at 16. Without ever hav­ing set foot in a blues club, he learned all he could from li­brary books and YouTube videos.

“My ad­van­tage was that I was play­ing an un­com­mon in­stru­ment,” he said. “The dis­ad­van­tage was that the singers all had a lot more ex­pe­ri­ence per­form­ing than me.”

He hopes to be a doc­tor, but he’ll keep play­ing the blues harp. He has an open in­vi­ta­tion to sit in with a few bands on Beale Street, and he’s a spe­cial guest artist Satur­day night.

Alice Roberts, the Or­pheum’s vice pres­i­dent of ed­u­ca­tion, says no win­ner has achieved na­tional star­dom yet, but that does not mean it hasn’t helped launch ca­reers.

“How do you mea­sure suc­cess?” Roberts said. “One of the singers is now a per­former on cruise ships. An­other got a full ride to col­lege. One is a min­is­ter of mu­sic, and an­other had a Broad­way call­back. So I think it’s been en­cour­ag­ing to a lot of peo­ple.”

The Or­pheum’s judges can as­sess just about ev­ery an­gle. They in­clude Michael Ching of Opera Mem­phis; Jon Hornyak, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Mem­phis chap­ter of The Record­ing Academy; mu­sic pro­ducer Ron Mag­ness; pro­moter Cameron Mann; Stax mu­si­cian Marvell Thomas; song­writer Mary Unob­sky; bal­let teacher Katie Smythe; Elvis Pres­ley En­ter­prises CEO Jack So­den; and soap opera ac­tress Peggy McCay.

The 11 fi­nal­ists are Daniel Ash­more, 19, of Southaven; Suzanne Chap­man, 17, of Ger­man­town; Alex Gold­man, 17, of Merid­ian, Miss.; Henry Lui, 17, of Jack­son, Tenn.; James Cur­tis Mays II, 16, of Bartlett; Melodie Moore, 16, of Mem­phis; Ra­keem Sprin­kle, 17, of Bartlett; Me­lanie Stanek, 18, of Mem­phis; Kris­tian Alex­ius Thomas, 19, of Mem­phis; Amanda Tit­tle, 19, of Mem­phis; and Ashley Brooke Wieron­ski, 19, of Southaven.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.