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Two city men advance to state Senior Idol Competition

October 24, 2009|By ALICIA NOTARIANNI

HAGERSTOWN -- "I sing because I'm happy," Jack Myers crooned.

And now, it's likely he is happy because he sings.

Myers, 86, of Hagerstown, walked off with first place Saturday at the first Washington County Senior Idol Contest.

Using recorded accompaniment, Myers sang "His Eye Is on the Sparrow" for an audience of about 75 people gathered in a social hall at Christ Reformed Church on West Franklin Street. The Washington County Commission on Aging sponsored the event.

"Oh, I love this. I love it," Myers said. "I think it's great for seniors to be active like this, to stay active in life. And music is one of the best ways."

Myers and first runner-up Mike Cunningham, 68, of Hagerstown, will advance to the Maryland Senior Idol Competition on Jan. 22 at Howard Community College in Columbia, Md.

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Cunningham played the guitar and sang Ray Charles' "Crying Time" in a poignant tenor.

While Myers viewed the event as an all-around good time, Cunningham said he was a bundle of nerves.

"I was sweating up a storm (before I went on)," Cunningham said. "Mr. Myers calmed me down and encouraged me. It's just humbling for me to be here."

Six contestants competed in the event. Washington County Commissioners President John F. Barr; Ruth Ridenour, head theater instructor at the Barbara Ingram School for the Arts; and Kathy Fisher, manager of the Washington County Senior Center at Girls Inc., served as judges.

Contestants were rated on stage presence and poise, connection with the audience, song selection, voice quality, ability to project and remembering lyrics.

Ridenour said she thought all of the contestants did "a tremendous job."

"I was surprised. I didn't know what to expect, but all the performers sang lovely," Ridenour said. "Everything was really close as far as the judging. It came down to things like 'maybe this one had more connection with the audience'. How neat it is to have this."

Barr agreed that the competition was "very close."

"It was hard to decide on a winner," he said.

Susan MacDonald, executive director of the Washington County Commission on Aging, said the Idol planning committee held auditions to ensure contestants were able to "sing well enough to entertain an audience."

"I was amazed at the extent of talent. It shows that at any age, people have a lot to contribute," MacDonald said. "This is an excellent opportunity to show what Washington County has in the way of people over 60. We want to show the rest of the state."

Myers and Cunningham expressed excitement about heading to the state competition. Cunningham plays on open-mic nights at Port City Java in Hagerstown. He said he would use his time there to polish his act before the Maryland Senior Idol contest.

"I'll practice at the coffeehouse to get the butterflies out," he said.

Myers provided reassurance.

"We are going down the road," he said. "I'll keep you cool."

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