A plumber with three kids, a junior in high school, three church worship leaders, a full-time nursing student with two kids and two budding singer/songwriters are the diverse contestants vying to be the next Statesboro Voice.
The vocal competition, which began last year as the brainchild of Averitt Center board members Jenny Foss and Corliss Reese as the major fundraiser for the Averitt Center’s Creative Growth Campaign, is bringing some of the best local talent to the Emma Kelly Theater on April 27.
"This event is turning out to be something people look forward to all year long," said Jamie Grady, executive director of the Averitt Center for the Arts. "There are so many people throughout the community helping the arts center and the contestants shine."
Eight amateur singers, who were chosen out of a talented group of 20 on March 8, match their vocal talents against each other for the chance to win up to $1,500 in cash prizes. The finalists are Sophie Braswell, Aleah Costoulas, Joshua Davis, Shaylin Finch, Maddy Kuhne, Christopher McCollum, Lucy McGuire and Sydney-Claire Smith.
Tickets are $25 each and include a 30-minute catered reception by Simply Elegant Catering during intermission. They can be purchased in the box office (open 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday through Friday), by calling (912) 212-2787, on-line at averittcenterforthearts.org/statesborovoiceseasontwo or by contacting any of the contestants or any Averitt Center board member. Showtime is 7:30 p.m.
Internationally-renown soul/jazz songstress Myrna Clayton is the event’s judge and will determine the overall winner, who will be awarded $1,000. There will also be a People’s Choice winner. Prior to the evening, fans can spend $1 or more to vote for their favorite singer and should log onto the Averitt website or the Statesboro Voice website for directions.There will also be in-person voting at the event. The contestant garnering the most votes ($1 equals one vote) will receive $500. All of the contestants want to encourage the public to check out their voter pages on Facebook. Voting is currently open and closes at the end of intermission of the event.
The Statesboro Voice is sponsored by Lanier, Deal and Proctor CPAs, Statesboro STEAM, Renasant Bank, Servpro of Statesboro, Frills by Scott and The Sir Shop. The inaugural competition in 2018 was won by Miranda Winter (Judge’s Choice) and Jasmyn Smith (People’s Choice).
"The Averitt Center is striving to make the Statesboro Voice a premiere annual event,” said Grady. “This year's production will include performances from last year's judge's choice winner Miranda Winter and this year's judge Myrna Clayton. The evening will also include duet performances with the advancing contestants and their mentors. There are going to be so many voices on stage for people to enjoy."
The finalists have been rehearsing for the past month with local professionals Melissa Coleman, Brandi Harvey, Robin Holmes-Lanier and Chris Mitchell.
Coleman toured the world as a background singer for Reba McEntire and Engelbert Humperdinck and worked with McGuire and McCullum. Harvey is a local favorite with a sultry voice and fantastic stage presence and mentored Smith and Kuhne. Holmes-Lanier is the founder and co-owner of Baby Grand Music Studio in Statesboro and worked with Davis and Finch. Mitchell owns Pladd Dot Music and has toured the Southeast as a musician and mentored Costoulas and Braswell.
Averitt Center artistic director Robert Cottle is the coordinator of the show and also plays in the five-piece band, which provides live music for every singer.
"I am excited about the overall quality of our contestants this year," Cottle said. "I have been working with everyone for the past six weeks and we are all ready to get on stage and let the contestants shine."
The Statesboro Voice begins with all eight finalists performing together in an exciting opening number. Then, one by one, each takes the Jan Brown Anderson stage for solo performances. Winter, the winner of the inaugural Statesboro Voice, will give a return performance to end the first half of the show.
Clayton, who graced the Emma Kelly stage in 2018 with her four-piece combo, opens the second half of the show with a favorite soul tune. Then, she will choose her top four singers from eight contestants. These four will then perform with their respective mentor.
After the duets, the People’s Choice winner will be announced and will perform once again. Next, Winter returns to the stage next to announce the Judge’s Choice winner, who will also perform for one last time before the evening ends.