When the 17 contestants of the fourth annual Durango Voice singing competition take the stage this weekend, there will be a new judge watching.
Added to this year’s roster is Linda Mack Berven, artistic director and conductor of the Durango Choral Society. She’s also a longtime professor at Fort Lewis College. She’ll be joining fellow judges Andreas Tischhauser, Drea Pressly and Bailey Barnes-Fagg.
All judges are volunteering their time, including the month of training they give contestants.
“This is high quality: The training that these contestants are going to get is from people who are from huge backgrounds,” said Elaine Chick, Durango Voice producer.
A fundraiser for Manna soup kitchen, the event raised $9,000 last year, Chick said.
Contestants range in age from teens to middle age. They were selected by submitting audition tapes.
Similar to the television show “The Voice,” contestants will perform in a blind audition Saturday. The four judges will sit with their backs to the singers and will turn their chairs around when their interest in a performer is piqued. The singers will be reduced to 12, with each judge will coaching three contestants for a month, culminating in a final performance April 6, where winners will be selected.
Chick, who has produced the show since it began, said for her, Durango Voice is an important community event – both for Manna and the contestants.
“There’s nothing like it here in Durango,” she said. “There’s so much talent here, and it provides a platform for not only singers who may have had a bucket list of getting onstage, this is an offering to help people on their way, whether they’re just staring out or whether they’re professional and still need some support.”
After a month of coaching, the 12 finalists will compete again at 7 p.m. April 6 at the Henry Strater Theatre, and three winners will be chosen.