'Idol' mind works to get talented teens on national TV

April 18, 2007|by BOB MAGINNIS

Lisa Key says the only time she really sings is in the shower, but that hasn't stopped her from searching out talented young performers for the May 5 "Teen Idol" competition at the Maryland Theatre.

This isn't just a local amateur night. Key said on Tuesday that the winner will be sent on an all-expenses-paid trip to New York City to audition for network TV's "American Idol."

Key, the circulation manager and teen activities coordinator for the Washington County Free Library, says some people have asked her why the library is involved in a singing competition.

"It's to change their (teens') perception of what a library is and expose them to what some of our resources are," she said.


Brian Sullivan, executive director of the Maryland Theatre, has also embraced the contest as a way to get some teens who've never been in his facility familiar with it, Key said.

There are 23 young competitors, Key said, all of whom will appear on stage the night of the competition beginning at 7 p.m.

They are all solo performers, Key said, because that's the way the "American Idol" format works. To keep "Teen Idol" true to its name, entrants must be 16 to 19.

Some of them did accompany themselves on the audition tapes they sent, but won't do so on stage, she said.

Instead, they must provide a CD of the music they will sing along to, she said, and the Maryland Theatre crew will play it on their sound system.

"This isn't going to be like karaoke. It's going to be very professional," she said.

Much of the event was planned by a teen advisory group, she said, adding that teens will help with the event, serving as ushers, among other things, for those who attend.

Key herself helped to recruit the talent for this event, going to all the county high schools during lunch time and talking up the idea, with the school system's blessing, table by table.

She will not be a judge for the event, but has heard the audition tapes and said she has been gratified to find so many talented young performers here.

One of the features some people enjoy about the "American Idol" program is the fact that in their hunger for fame, some performers delude themselves into believing that they have some musical ability.

Were there, I asked, any such performers in this competition.

No, she said, adding there were "no William Hungs."

Hung was an "American Idol" contestant who endeared himself to audiences by his earnest attempts to perform popular songs, although, in the opinion of most observers, his performances were more amusing than moving.

Asked if there were any of the performers whose performances moved her, Key hesitated, not wanting to give an unfair advantage by naming a contestant.

But she did agree to talk about one audition without naming the contestant. Although most submitted video tapes of themselves, this contestant submitted an audio tape only.

"I was very touched and moved by their feeling and interpretation," she said.

Will the judges be touched, too?

It's unknown, but they include:

Joe Marschner, of Hagerstown Community College's Art and Music Department.

Jeff Wine of Main Fine Broadcasting.

Kamini (Mini) Heisler, who Key said is a costume designer who works in "Bollywood," India's filmmaking industry.

The three will hear all the acts, then deliberate while a local band, "Defyance" pronounced as "defiance," plays music from the 1960s and 1970s. Then the finalists will come back for one last try.

Key said the winner will go to New York City by train and to the "American Idol" studio by limousine. Meal money will be provided as well, she said.

Key urged the community to support the young talent by coming out that night. Admission is $10 and tickets may be obtained at the library's main branch, by visiting the Maryland Theatre box office at 21 S. Potomac St., calling 301-790-2000 or by going to theater's Web site at

Bob Maginnis is editorial page editor of The Herald-Mail newspapers.

Editor's note: To hear Bob Maginnis' interview with Key, go to and click on "Bob's Pod" and "Teen Idol." Key will chat online at on Tuesday, April 24 at 1 p.m. To e-mail questions in advance, send them to

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