EATON — Nine semifinalists were selected last weekend to move on to the third round of Preble County Idol 2016 after a series of open air performances at the Preble County Historical Society amphitheater. A final open call for new entries on Saturday, July 16 was immediately followed by the second round of competition. In second round competition, contestants sang with backing tracks or accompanied themselves with instruments.
Duante Beddingfield, Bill Chasteen, Brenna Heuberger, Mark Joshua, Aaliyah Olsen, Jennifer Olsen, Jordan Rogers, Grace Reynolds, Aja Smith will compete in the semifinals, to be held Monday, August 1 at the Preble County Fair, in the Toney Building.
Eighteen-year-old Richmond resident Aja Smith earned a “golden ticket” to the semifinals, despite confessing she suffers from stage fright. “It’s been really positive so far,” she said. “I’ve done one other competition like this and it was a little more negative, so I like that they all around they try to make it a good experience for everybody.”
Smith sees Idol as a stop along the way to professional music. She recently took a year of vocal lessons and applied to music schools around the country.
“I’m really looking forward to the fair,” she said.
Mark Joshua will be among those competing in August. A Hamilton resident who learned about the contest on Facebook, he arrived at the second round of auditions after playing a gig at a farmer’s market that morning. Joshua, 20, received high compliments from the Idol judges on his singing and guitar playing.
“It’s been great,” he said. “I love the supportiveness of the crowds and the feedback from the judges.”
The panel of judges consisted of 2015 winner Leah Deane, longtime judge and area musician Janett Wilges, and Eaton Church of the Brethren worship arts pastor Matt Owens.
“Leah has been through the Preble County Idol competition and others like it and is a fantastic performer and singer,” said Idol organizer Liisa Erskine. “Janett has judged for many years and has a good long-term perspective of the competition and what makes a contestant successful. Matt works with a lot of singers and musicians through his job at the Church of the Brethren and is a very learned and accomplished musician himself. In style, musical background, and approach, each judge brings a unique vantage point to the table.”
Wilges, who has been involved with the fair for years — “My mother has been the Preble County Dairy Goat 4-H leader for the last 30 years,” she said — performs regularly in the region as a singer and flutist, and will play at the fair on August 2.
Both Wilges and Erskine expressed enthusiasm for the diversity in musical genres and styles among this year’s contestants; second round selections ranged from current pop to ’90s rock, country to big band jazz. Usually, you get a lot of country,” said Wilges, “but this year it’s very different.”
“There are a lot more different styles than we’re used to,” Erskine agreed.
After eliminations on Aug. 1, a small group of singers will compete in the final round on the final day of the fair, Saturday, Aug. 6 at 4 p.m. First, second, and third place winners will receive cash prizes, with $500 going to the top ranked.