This year’s Durango Voice finalists will take the stage at Henry Strater Theatre on Saturday to show off a month’s worth of vocal coaching courtesy of judges Jill Holly, Bailey Barnes-Fagg, Andreas Tischhauser and Drea Pressley.
Not only are the competitors trying to convince judges they’re the best, they’re also helping a local nonprofit – Durango Voice is a fundraiser for Manna.
Here’s a look at this year’s finalists:
McKenzie BeltMcKenzie Belt, a student at Durango High School, has been singing from the time she was little, but it has only been in the last three years she has been performing in front of an audience. Her most recent vocal performance was in DHS Troupe 1096’s production of “Grease” that was performed this past fall.
Ashlyn BoomerAshlyn Boomer is a Durango middle-schooler. Her biggest challenge in the competition was her nerves, she said. “I get so scared, but when I get onstage, I put my game face on, and I’m OK.” And while she’s a little nervous heading into the finals, she’s confident. “My coach is really good, so I’m not doubting anything.”
Macie FogelMacie Fogel is a local seventh-grader who has enjoyed her month of vocal training with coach Bailey Barnes-Fagg. “The best part has been working with Bailey, she’s been amazing,” she said. “She’s been teaching me so much and I feel like I’ve really improved as a singer.”
Rebekah DeLaMareDurangoan Rebekah DeLaMare has been singing for as long as she can remember. “I actually learned to play guitar so that I could have something to back up my vocals,” she said, adding that for her, the best part of the competition has been meeting the other contestants. “I had a great time backstage waiting to go out and perform,” she said. “It was a really great opportunity to connect with other people who were interested in music.”
Shinta Dewi FullerHaving moved here recently from Indonesia, Shinta Dewi Fuller has been singing since she was 12. And while she said she’s nervous heading into the finals, her passion for singing makes it all worth it. “Maybe I can get my dream because I’m a singer in my country, so I hope I can get the same opportunity here, like singing in cafes or gigs.”
Ellie FergusonFort Lewis College student Ellie Ferguson has been singing her whole life. For her, “finding the song for the competition was difficult because it had to be three minutes, there are so many good songs that are five, six minutes long, and you can’t really cut it right.” She said that the best part of being in the show was meeting her fellow contestants. “I didn’t really know what to expect, but it was really warm and welcoming and the people were really nice.” Is she nervous? “I guess school’s keeping me pretty distracted right now; I don’t have time to be worried.”
Sophie Maja Hughes
Durango High School student Sophie Maja Hughes has competed in Durango Voice since it started three years ago, and the challenge for her this year is the improving quality of the competition. “We’ve upped the ante – it’s become more competitive; more people who are coming in a lot more professional with higher-caliber performances.” And she said, Durango Voice is a great addition to the community. “It’s amazing to have a resource like this in Durango where you’re just able to perform and have an opportunity to show your talent on this level.”
Adde NeimanAdde Neiman is a local sixth-grader who started out by singing the national anthem when her father coached baseball. Then, she said, her mother wanted to get her into musical theater. It wasn’t long before the idea of trying the Durango Voice came about. For Adde, the best part of the competition has been “learning new experiences, learning new techniques.”
Mark PalmerA relatively new Durangoan who works in customer support, Palmer said that the best part of the competition for him has been “the community reaction. I’m so amazed at how active and involved the community is in a simple chartable activity like this.”
Andrew SchuhmannAndrew Schuhmann is a middle school teacher who picked up singing when he was a kid. “I taught myself how to play guitar and sing” Besides teaching, he’s also a gigging musician, so the competition is something fun to do. “It’s a lot more fun than I expected it to be,” he said. “I kind of root for everybody up there and see them be vulnerable a little bit and see the audience support them, which is awesome.”
Chris SmithMiddle-schooler Chris Smith has been singing for three years, and the hardest part of going to the finals for him is “finding a song that relates to me in a meaningful way that I can sing with passion.” He said his vocal coach Andreas Tischhauser has really helped him in the past month. “The best part has been working with Andreas. He’s really good at teaching me how to use my voice better.”
Jenna SzczechDHS student Jenna Szczech has been singing since she was about 6 or 7, “pretty much for as long as I can remember.” She said the biggest challenge for her has been the stress of the competition. “I didn’t realize how much it would require, so practicing was really hard for me,” she said, adding that the best part was meeting her fellow contestants. “They’re great people.”
Devin WillsFor veteran musician Devin Wills, the competition is more about having fun, adding that he’s able to remain calm in the weeks leading up to the final show. “I usually get nervous like five minutes before I have to go on,” he said.