Following in his brother’s footsteps, Austin Klein won the title of 2015 KC SuperStar — and a $10,000 college scholarship — before an overflow audience Sunday in Yardley Hall at Johnson County Community College.
Klein, 18, whose brother, Keith, was voted 2014 KC SuperStar in the “American-Idol” style competition last year, becomes the third Blue Valley Northwest student to be judged the metro area’s best high school singer. Dylan Martin, also from Blue Valley Northwest, was KC SuperStar of 2013.
“I was more than just surprised. I was shocked when I heard the vote,” Klein said. “The finalists all were so talented any one of them could have won. It’s been an incredible privilege to sing with them.”
“My intention when I started singing was just to entertain, not beat anyone,” Klein said.
An unabashed fan of what he terms “old-style country music like Johnny Cash,” Klein sang “Ring of Fire” in the semi-finals in June and followed up with “Folsom Prison Blues” in the finals.
Klein is enrolled at the University of Notre Dame, where he plans to double major in international economics and political science. He also hopes to sing in the Men’s Glee Club.
“I’ve always liked Notre Dame. It’s a good Catholic school with great academics,” he said.
The group of 10 finalists was reduced to the final four by a panel of judges, then the audience voted electronically to determine the 2015 KC SuperStar. The contestants were introduced by Emcee Rob Riggle, star of television and film, and a graduate of Shawnee Mission South and the University of Kansas.
“It’s always special to me to come home and be part of something that has kind of become a Kansas City institution,” Riggle told the audience. “The Jewish Community Center does a wonderful job of bringing together kids from all over the greater Kansas City area to compete in a very cool event that supports the arts. We have a lot of talent in this town and I like to see them have a stage where they can compete against each other to see how far their talent will take them.”
The judges were Shannon Durig, Teresa Maxwell, Kelly Urich and Jason Vivone, all professionals in the entertainment industry.
Lorre’al Triplett, 15, a sophomore at Olathe South, was voted second and won a $5,000 scholarship. She sang “A Couple of Forevers.”
“I had some jitters while I was waiting. But they went away when I started to sing and I felt pretty confident,” Lorre’al said.
She plans to bank her scholarship money until she’s ready for college. “I haven’t decided where I’ll go. I think I’d like Duke University. I don’t have a major in mind but I know I want to keep singing,” she said.
Third place and a $2,500 scholarship went to Bethany Vermillion, 18, a home-school graduate who will enroll at Southwest Baptist University this fall in Bolivar, Mo. “I was surprised. Honestly, I was honored just to be in the finals,” she said. “I still can’t believe it.”
Vermillion sang “Done.” “I sang a ballad in the semi-finals and I wanted to sing an up tempo song in the finals. It was a fun,” she said.
Vermillion plans a double major in theater and education in college. “I would love to teach theater but really I just want to teach where I’m needed,” she said.
Tessa Hake, 15, a sophomore at Blue Springs, placed fourth and won a $1,000 scholarship. She sang “Dear Future Husband.”
“I sang it because I think it’s cute. It’s modernized and perfect for my personality,” she said. “I definitely enjoyed being part of KC SuperStar this year. We were like family. I had so much fun. I may try out again next year.”
The other finalists, who each received $500 scholarships, were Allie Bostwick, St. Thomas Aquinas; Kate Cosentino, Blue Valley West; Alex Haywood, Libby Lane Academy; Prince Russell Johnson, Wyandotte; Sebastian McCarty, Blue Valley North, and Monica Stanley, St. Teresa’s.
Dayton Moore, the general manager of the Kansas City Royals, was recognized as “Community SuperStar” for his work in metro area organizations. Moore lives in Leawood.
The Jewish Community Center sponsors the annual KC SuperStar event and this year is sharing a portion of the event’s proceeds with Children’s Mercy Hospital’s Big Slick program, which Riggle founded.
The JCC also supports the Reat Griffin Underwood Rising Stars Fund named in memory of Reat and his grandfather, William Corporon, who died April 13, 2014, in a shooting outside the Jewish Community Center where Reat planned to audition for the KC SuperStar contest.
KC SuperStar is directed and produced by Tammy Ruder. Felice Azorsky is the program coordinator.