Contest inspires youths to step out of comfort zone

Move over, Simon Cowell, and make room for the next big thing: U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart’s Teen Idol.

The Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Child Youth and School Services-sponsored talent competition for middle and high school students was held June 11 in the Patch Community Club.

 Unlike “American Idol,” the popular reality television singing competition, there were no votes, no recording contracts and no wisecracking judges.
But there were 15 teens singing and dancing their hearts out in front of families and friends.

It wasn’t really about finding the most talented teen, though.

“We wanted to give the Stuttgart kids a chance to shine and to celebrate the end of school,” said Julian Bogan, a CYS Services workforce preparation specialist. He and fellow CYS Services staffers Mary Kane and Ali Thomas organized the event.
Preparations began in May, with two rounds of auditions. However, no one was turned away.

Instead, the auditions let the CYS Services staff assess if the musical selections were appropriate. It also gave participants practice in overcoming any nervousness, Bogan said.

Three mandatory practices also allowed the performers to hone their acts. Yet on show night, many admitted they still had performance jitters. 

“I have a really big fear of being in front of people,” said Jessica Osteen, 13, who sang Smash Mouth’s “All Star” a cappella. To overcome her fear, Osteen looked for her supporters while she was performing. “My friends were all around the room, and I felt better because they were cheering me on,” she said.

Even more experienced performers had butterflies.
Centavia Boney, 17, who sings in church and is used to being in front of a crowd, said she was nervous.

“Being in front of a crowd is pretty tough at first. It’s nerve wracking. But once you start singing, you forget about the nerves,” said Boney, who sang OneRepublic’s “Say (All I Need).”

After each performance, the young contestants bravely faced the judges: Tanya Young, recruited for her singing ability; Dr. Rena Hall, the USAG Stuttgart School Liaison Officer; and Christopher Holman, CYS Services staff member.

Unlike “American Idol’s” Simon Cowell, who is notorious for his blunt and controversial criticisms, the Stuttgart judges offered praise and suggestions.
 “It’s tough to be a judge,” said Young, who has sung in gospel groups most of her life and currently sings with the April Adkins N’spiredVoices, a local group.
Young said judging is a delicate balance. “You want to give them constructive criticism — but you don’t want to bruise their egos or discourage them.” 

“Overall, I’ve been very impressed with the level of talent. If they keep working on their craft, they can go far,” Young said.

In the end, R.J. Weaver, 14, who sang Oasis’ “Wonderwall” while accompanying himself on guitar, won first place.

Kyler Fingy, Joseph Viana and Chris Hopkins, all 14, placed second with their original tune, “Heart of Gold.”

Third place went to Tyler Matney, 14, who performed a Michael Jackson dance tribute.