Top ten talented teens to compete for ‘Idol’ title at Reed College

Learn what it took for ten teens to pass by hundreds of musically-talented kids to get a finalist slot in this new competition. We’ll find out who the winner is on June 16 at Reed‚

SE Portland’s Mackenzie Winter performs at the PDX Teen Idol semi-finalist competition at Mt. Scott Community Center.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
One by one, 26 talented teenagers walk on the bare stage at Mt. Scott Community Center in SE Portland; pick up the microphone, and sing‚ first without, the with accompaniment‚ each one hoping to win the approval of the judges.

But, contestants in the PDX Teen Idol semi-final competition on May 20 know fewer than half of this group will progress to the finals.

A singer steps on stage
The next entrant, SE Portland’s Mackenzie Winter tells us she’s frequently been to this community center‚ but as a pool life guard‚ not a contestant in a musical competition.

“I’ve never don’t this before, but I absolutely love to sing,” Winter says. “It doesn’t matter if I win or lose. It is fun to sing.”

Winter performs, the audience applauds, the judges make their comments, and the next performer takes the stage.

“We have some major talent here in Portland!” exclaims one of the coordinators of the PDX Teen Idol competition for Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R), Megan Hope.

“This is a pilot program, funded by the City, created to help teens stay healthy, active and engaged,” Hope explains. “We started with 260 entries — the kids are really responding to it.”

With so many talented performers taking part in the competition, judges Jen Folker, Keith Schreiner and Richard Kiely have their hands full as they make the final cut.

No ‘Simon’ here
The competition is based on the hit television show American Idol. But there is clearly one exception to the TV show’s formula: no Simon Cowell.

The judges, professional musicians Jen Folker, Keith Schreiner and Richard Kiely praise the performers and give constructive advice‚ instead of verbally abusing contestants’ failings.

“We discussed this beforehand and decided not to be negative,” said Richard Kiely, himself an electric bass player of 38 years and Brentwood-Darlington resident.

“It was wonderful to see the kids living their dreams and showing their talent. They weren’t full of themselves,” Kiely reflects. “Even though only ten will go to the finals in June, they’ll all go on to do something special in their lives.”

When Jeff Milkes, SE Services Manager for PP&R asked him to be a judge at both the semi-finals and finals, Kiely said he was more than happy to invest time in the project. “Programs like this gives young people an alternative. If kids are supported by the community and their parents and their peers, positive things happen. Whether they win or lose, this is an experience they’ll remember the rest of their lives.”

PDX Teen Idol finals on June 16
Our favorite, Mackenzie Winter, was still smiling even though she didn’t make it into the finals. “I had a good time, and I’ll still keep singing. I’m really excited about going to Principia College in Illinois this fall.”

Each of the top-10 finalists won prizes‚ but more importantly‚ get a coveted spot at the PDX Teen Idol finals show on June 16 at 7 p.m. in Reed College’s Kuhl Auditorium.

“You’ll be blown away by the talent you’ll see,” recommends Kiely.

In addition to winning the of Portland’s Teen Idol, the top-rated performer will also win a $500 US Savings Bond, an 80GB iPod and the opportunity to record a song in a professional studio.

Learn more online at www.myspace.com\pdxteenidol .

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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