WANT TO GO?
Presented by the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday
WHERE: Clay Center
TICKETS: Adults $10-$62, students and children $6-$15
INFO: 304-561-3570 or online at www.wvsymphony.orgCHARLESTON, W.Va. -- This weekend, all eyes at the Clay Center will be on the eight finalists in the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra's "Symphony Idol" competition. The audience will decide who wins the coveted title, but the judges also feel the heat of the spotlight, as they were in charge of selecting the finalists from a field of more than 50 competitors.
"In narrowing down the field from 50-plus to eight, our job was not only to judge the talent of the contestants but to decide whether they could use that talent with a symphony orchestra," explained judge Larry Groce. "Not every good singer can perform comfortably with a symphonic arrangement. We didn't have written guidelines, but all of us, including Maestro Cooper who was probably the most important judge, were aware that the winner was to sing a pops program with the orchestra, and we took that into consideration."
Groce, a singer, songwriter and arts/entertainment producer, has seen a lot of talent as the host and co-founder of "Mountain Stage" and as executive director of FestivALL Charleston.
"I have been part of judging the 'Mountain Stage' NewSong<co > Contest for a while now, so the judging experience was not as foreign as it might have been," he said, adding that the current judges panel (which also includes Mariel Van Dalsum and West Virginia Division of Culture and History commissioner Randall Reid-Smith) judged the first "Symphony Idol" competition in 2008 as well.
"I'm glad we don't have to make the final decision because often there are several equally qualified contestants, and it comes down to a matter of taste: do you prefer the 'Broadway' singer, the more classical voice or the pop stylist? In my experience, it's often easier to go from 50 contestants to eight finalists than to go from eight finalists to one winner."
Van Dalsum, a voice instructor at the University of Charleston, agrees with that.