The next music star to emerge from Delaware might be one of the dozen contestants duking it out at the Smyrna Opera House on Saturday — in round one of the "Smyrna's Got Voice- Kid's Rock" singing competition.
"Smyrna's Got Voice – Kid's Rock" is the Smyrna Opera House's annual American Idol-inspired competition featuring 14 kids throughout the state in two age groups. The first group includes kids aged 10 to 13, while the second features performers aged 14 to 17.
Each group will be reduced to five contestants for round two on March 23, then they'll be reduced to three contestants for the finale on April 27. Audience members will play a key role in the event as they decide who moves on to each round. Judges will only vote in the event of a tie.
With 14 performers in Smyrna's Got Voice, it's ironic that nearly half are from the M.O.T. area. The local quintet of budding singers is comprised of Middletown natives: Taylor Quick and Sydney Wilson, and Townsend natives: Lauren Berry, Katie Loftus and Jaden McGeoch.
'I JUST LOVE CARRIE'
McGeoch has something that not all of the contestants in the show have. She has experience. McGeoch performed in Smyrna's Got Voice in 2011 and advanced to the first round.
"I love to sing!" beamed McGeoch, 12, a sixth-grader at Alfred G. Waters Middle School. "I did [the competition] two years ago and I just loved it."
She'll perform Carrie Underwood's "Cowboy Casanova," a cautionary tale that warns girls to avoid unfaithful boys.
"I just love Carrie and all the messages she sends," McGeoch said, smiling.
McGeoch recalled that the Smyrna's Got Voice judges complimented her ability to inject emotion into her performance in 2011. Recognizing that emotion is her strong suit, the 12-year-old will attempt to convey to the audience that they should beware of cheating boys – even though she's never been cheated on.
"I put myself in Carrie's shoes and I sing like someone did that to me," McGeoch explained. "It's something I really want to do, to get them to enjoy me and my performance."
Similar to McGeoch, Berry is returning to the Smyrna Opera House stage, and she'll also cover a Carrie Underwood tune, "Mama's Song."
"I like the high notes she can hit in her songs, and I can hit those high notes," said Berry, 14, an eighth-grader at Everett Meredith Middle School.
Berry's strategy this weekend is to interact more with the crowd, a critique she received from the judges during her debut in Smyrna's Got Voice in 2010. She advanced to the contest's second round in 2010. "It was one of the first times I had ever been on stage by myself," Berry explained.
Page 2 of 3 - Since then, she says she's made an attempt to "put myself out there, and I do as much as I can in front people." This includes sharpening her skills by battling her classmates in sing-offs at school. It's been a lot of hard work, but Berry see's the light at the end of the tunnel.
"In the future, I'd like to be a country singer like Carrie Underwood," she said.
CATCHING UP 'QUICK'-LY
A number of the young performers in Smyrna's Got Voice have been singing since elementary school. But not Quick, the eldest of the M.O.T. contestants.
"I really stared when I was 14 or 15," explained Quick, 17, who's a senior at Middletown High School. "When it comes to singing, I guess I started later than a lot of people."
Nonetheless, she's already found a way to bond with listeners through singing, something many adult singers still struggle to achieve.
Quick —who'll perform Nina Simone's "Feeling Good" — credits her experience performing in ensembles in musical productions at school and at the Premier Centre for the Arts for helping to develop her stage presence, which is based on showing expression with her entire body, and not just with her lips. "I feel like when I sing, I can make the audience feel something," she said. "I think singing is a lot more than having a good voice."
'THEY ALWAYS CRY'
Recognizing "Les Misérables" is still a pretty popular film, Wilson decided to cover actress Samantha Bark's rendition of "On My Own" from the flick.
"My mom and dad adore Les Mis," said Wilson, 12, a sixth-grader at Cab Calloway School of the Arts in Wilmington. "They always cry when they hear me sing, and I just hope it moves everyone else."
Wilson, who's not afraid to belt out notes, recently sang her way to second place at Premier Centre for the Arts' "Smalltown Idol" competition.
One of the most experienced competitors in Smyrna's Got Voice is Loftus, a 12-year-old. She's appeared in the show three times, and is headed for her fourth on Saturday. In 2008, at age 8, Loftus made her debut and won first place in the children's division, and placed fourth overall in the show. From 2009-2010 she also advanced to the finals, in which her best was third place overall in 2010.
She'll be performing "Breakaway" by Kelly Clarkson.
How has Loftus achieved so much success in Smyrna's Got Voice?
Page 3 of 3 - "Some people stand up there and do a song. When I do a song, I use acting and emotion," said Loftus, a seventh-grader at MOT Charter School. "[Judges] don't want you to stand there and sing it. They want you to perform it, even though it's called Smyrna's Got Voice."
IF YOU GO
WHAT "Smyrna's Got Voice – Kids Rock!" round one competition
WHEN 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 23
WHERE Smyrna Opera House, 7 W. South St., Smyrna
COST $13; $30 (family four-pack; must include two kids)
INFO smyrnaoperahouse.org or 653-4236