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Teen Idol singing competition returns to mall

After a two-year hiatus, the Charleston’s Teen Idol singing competition, now rebranded West Virginia’s Teen Idol, returns to Charleston Town Center beginning April 11, and it’s back in a big way.

Things kick off at 4:30 p.m. with a free mini-concert and meet-and-greet by former Nickelodeon star Drake Bell (“Drake & Josh”), who, since that show ended, has turned his focus mainly to voice work and a music career. He will perform a few songs and then sign autographs until 6 p.m., when the first Idol screening round starts.

Rules for the competition, sponsored by the mall and Coca-Cola, are the same as in previous years: It is open to West Virginia residents ages 13-23 with no prior professional experience. Singers perform a cappella in the screening and preliminary rounds, and then may use instruments or backing tracks in the semi-finals and finals. Songs must be current selections (with clean lyrics) from the pop music charts; no show tunes, gospel/religious songs or oldies are allowed.

This year, there are four preliminary rounds at 1 p.m. Saturdays, all preceded by a 6 p.m. screening round the night before. The preliminary dates are April 12, 19, 26 and May 3.

There is no set number of contestants that will advance each week, but no more than 25 total will go to the semi-finals, held May 10. If participants don’t make it through one week, they may try again, starting back with the screening process. Auditioning early is encouraged, so singers have as many chances as possible to earn a semi-final spot.

On May 10, the semi-finalists will perform, and the judges will immediately narrow the field. The finalists will then perform again, and from there, a winner will be crowned.

He or she will receive the “Ultimate Recording Experience”: a three-night trip for two to Nashville that includes studio time to record two songs with a professional backup band and a career consultation with a producer from Cupit Music. If that’s not enough, there’s also $500 spending money for the trip, a $250 mall gift card for wardrobe needs, promotional headshots by Steve Payne Photography and performance slots at FestivALL and Live on the Levee.

The 2011 winner was Colton Pack, who parlayed his Nashville experience into a spot on last season’s “X Factor” as part of the country trio Restless Road. He’s now pursuing a solo career.

Also among the finalists was Autumn Blair, who starred on Lifetime’s “Chasing Nashville” last fall. The show focused on four aspiring singers from Appalachia who worked with a Grammy-winning producer in Music City. Ultimately, Blair impressed 19 Entertainment (“American Idol,” “So You Think You Can Dance”) Senior VP Jim Weatherson and earned a meeting with him to discuss career opportunities.

If you’re interested, you can pick up an application at Guest Services. Stop by on your way to or from the spring and prom fashion show set for 1 p.m. Saturday in Macy’s Court. At that event, enter for a chance to win a prom dress from Caché. (Drawing takes place during the show.)

Applications are also available at www.charlestontowncenter.com. They can be completed in advance or upon signing up at a screening. Those younger than 18 must have the signature of a parent or guardian, and if they make it to the finals, a parent or guardian must be present. There is a one-time, cash-only $25 registration fee.

FlipSide and Electric 102.7 are also sponsors of this event. Call 304-345-9525 for more information.


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