Ten area high school singers lit up Yardley Hall with their talent during the ninth annual KC SuperStar competition Aug. 26.
The young performers competed for the title of 2018 KC SuperStar and a $10,000 scholarship during the event, sponsored by the Jewish Community Center.
Broadway, television and film star Megan Hilty hosted the event, which was modeled after shows like “American Idol” and “The Voice.”
Four finalists were selected by judges, then the audience voted electronically to select the winner and recipients of the second-, third- and fourth-place scholarships.
Though each of the performers brought their own unique talent and singing styles to the stage, together they shared a mutual passion for music with their audience.
“Connection is the one word to describe music for me,” said Devion Williams, one of the event’s four finalists. “No matter where you come from, or what you do, everyone listens to music. Everyone can connect through music.”
Tammy Ruder, KC SuperStar’s executive director and producer, also believes music is a universal language.
“Music is part of our culture and we need the arts to have a successful society,” said Ruder. “Music can move us to do great things. It transcends all races, cultures and demographics and touches everybody.”
Madelyn Padget, Blue Springs South junior and this year’s KC SuperStar winner, agreed.
“I think music is an expression of feelings where you don’t have to work to say how you feel,” she said. “To me, live entertainment is really impactful. It’s not about self-benefit. It’s about making other people happy and that’s what I like about it.
“The win is really fulfilling and something I’ve always wanted, but it’s not about the money or glory. ”
Padget’s road to KC SuperStar began in January when she and more than 250 other students representing 100 area high schools, auditioned for one of 24 spots in the initial semi-finals. After a two-day audition in early spring, that field was narrowed to the 10 finalists who performed Sunday evening.
From April until their final performance, these young musical artists participated in a wide variety of workshops throughout the summer.
“We worked with the singers in technique, breathing, eye contact, song selection, how use a microphone, sing with live accompaniment and move to the music,” said Ruder, who has produced and directed the show since it began. “Every year, our choreographer, Dana Hunt works with kids who think they can’t dance, or have no dance experience, and teaches them to dance.”
Richard McCroskey, professional musician and KC SuperStar’s musical director, collaborates with the finalists to develop their voice and fine tune their performance.
“I’ve grown so much as a singer,” Williams said. “I had trouble with the emotional content of the song. It’s hard to be vulnerable and open up onstage. It’s hard to do for most people, but I’m working through it.”
Ruder and her team enjoy working with the young singers to improve their talents.
“We helped the kids see they’ve been given a talent and to use that talent to the best of their ability,” she said,
“We tell them to be proud of what they do. Kids have so many pressures to conform and be like everyone else. We tell them, ‘Remember what you love and be true to yourself’.”
KC SuperStar is an experience these young singers carry with them far into the future.
“This allowed me to meet a lot of people I wouldn’t have and make new friends with people who share my interests,” said Williams, who graduated in May from St. Michael the Archangel High School and will be leaving in a few weeks to begin music studies at the Berklee College of Music in Boston.
“I forgot it was a competition,” she said. “We were all there for each other and it felt like a family.”
2018 KC SuperStar winners:
First place: Madelyn Padget, Blue Springs South junior, $10,000 scholarship
Second place: Alyssa Mendoza, 2018 Shawnee Mission Northwest graduate, $5,000 scholarship
Third place: Jaeda Dickens, Liberty High School junior, $2,500 scholarship
Fourth place: Devion Williams, 2018 St. Michael the Archangel High School graduate and 2017 KC SuperStar finalist, $1,000 scholarship
The remaining finalists all received $500 scholarships.