Lawren Hill heads for stardom

May 06, 2007|By PEPPER BALLARD

HAGERSTOWN-Twenty Tri-State-area teens belted songs that one judge said could shake the cherubs off the walls of The Maryland Theatre, the backdrop Saturday night for the first Washington County Teen Idol competition.

After each of the 20 contestants sang their hand-picked songs, the judges narrowed the field to five girls - Marquis Clever, 16, of Williamsport; Lawren Hill, 17, of Hagerstown; Erika Cooper, 17, of Smithsburg; Kaylyn Lowery, 16, of Chambersburg, Pa.; and Stacy Ingraham, 18, who attends Hagerstown Community College.

Hill won the competition, and with it an all-expenses paid trip to New York.

Brian Sullivan, executive director of The Maryland Theatre; Kamini "Mini" Heisler, a costume designer; and Jeff Wine, creative director of Main Line Broadcasting judged the competition, but none made any biting criticisms common in the inspiration for the contest, "American Idol."

All contestants were complimented and congratulated by the judges. A few were told they were "a little pitchy." One was told she "lost control."


The audience occasionally blurted out "What?" or booed the judge's rulings. Some members made homemade signs to cheer on their favorites.

Before the show, some of the contestants said they were trying to fight off butterflies backstage, while others said they're used to the limelight.

"If I had a choice in my career, it would be a performer," said Gregory Walton, 16, of Williamsport. Walton sang "Just Friends" by Musiq Soulchild a cappela. He thought the competition would be fun. He had the audience clapping along with the beat.

Chris James, 17, of Hagerstown, said he's been singing since he was 6 years old. James, who sang a Kevin Sharp song, said, "I love 'American Idol' because it gives people chances to pursue their music careers."

James and Lowery both said their favorite "American Idol" was Carrie Underwood. Lowery sang her song, "Before He Cheats" in the first round.

"Singing has been my thing since I was a little kid," she said.

Several of the contestants said they practiced at home for hours. One contestant, Stephen Weatherholt, 18, of Hancock, said he made a CD of his two songs and sang along to them constantly in his car.

More than 300 people paid $10 to watch the contest.

The competition was co-sponsored by the theater and the Washington County Free Library, which hopes associating itself with fun events such as the Idol contest will draw younger readers to the library, Lisa Key, the library's circulation manager and teen activities coordinator, has said.

The library's teen advisory committee came up with the idea for Washington County Teen Idol, she has said.

Defyance, a band of four 15-year-old boys, played rock songs during intermission.

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