For the past four weekends, I've found myself sitting backstage at the 's green room with some seriously talented Napa teens during the qualification rounds of 2011.
Whenever I came in to wave hello and wish them luck, I'd find them drinking tea to warm their vocal cords, giggling to one another for all the reasons that teens giggle -- or just, simply, waiting to perform.
There was no hair-pulling, pacing, or crying -- their complete calm always startled me. I mean, who in their right mind is okay, knowing they will soon be singing -- and be judged for singing -- in front of a huge crowd on a nationally-renowned stage? A stage that will hold the likes of composer Philip Glass and John Pizzarelli --and even featured Mark Twain in the last century?
I guess the fatal miscalculation I made was forgetting that these kids aren't nervous because they don't have a reason to be-- they've got it. And on Saturday night, about 500 Napans got to witness "it," as nine proud teenage girls belted their hearts out for the title of Idol NV.
The theatre was slammed by 6 p.m. People were trying to pull favors and buy tickets from the will-call volunteers, but it was a no-go: The performance was long sold out. Thank you, my lucky stars, for the gift of a press pass.
Those who could not get a ticket upstairs opted to watch the performances via television screens transmitting the show to the downstairs Cafe Theatre, which was filled with fashion models from showing off some fabulous vintage styles.
At 6:45, the lights dimmed and the audience started to hush. By 7, there were audible cheers as the show was introduced by Evy Warshawski and the night's emcee, Napa Mayor Jill Techel.
The finale's judging panel included theater director Olivia Cowell, international booking agent Donald E. Osborne, and performer Wesla Whitfield.
Up first was Tori Langfitt, winner of Round 1, who performed a mashup of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody," and Aerosmith's "Dream On." Langfitt was accompanied by two guitarists including Peter Sykes, co-owner of the .
Music choices that followed during the night ranged from Shelby Lanterman's decision to go 80's rocker chick (Heart's "Crazy on You") to Signe Olson's contemporary singer/songwriter choice (Sara Bareilles' "Fairytale.")
While some contestants chose new songs for the final round, all performed their previous qualifier-winning songs.
decided to present something new to the audience.
The judges were critical of the singers' performances, often times telling them to "really consider the words and feeling of the song," (according to Wesla Whitfield). Osborne questioned several of the contestants' choice of key and vocal range.
Despite the sometimes-harsh judgments, all the girls seemed in good spirits and happy to get tips from Osborne, a booking agent with over 20 years' experience in the biz.
The last performance of the night was from Signe Olson, with ushers quickly sprinting up and down the aisles of the theatre following her performance to collect ballots for the audience favorite.
While the votes were counted, we heard an inspired performance by Idol NV 2009 winner Olivia Jasmine, who now resides in Hollywood and is developing her singing career. Jasmine sang her own arrangement of Lady Gaga's "Paparazzi," accompanying herself on piano, following a"Spring Fling" fashion show presented by Betty's Girl Boutique.
While the audience could not vote for the ultimate winner, they did get to choose an audience favorite-- This year, the audience pick was Tori Langfitt.
Duncan was declared the winner, with Lippmann the close runner-up. All three girls received a package of prizes, including an Amazon Kindle.
Duncan earned an extra prize--the chance to open for an act at later in the performance year.
Congratulations to Emily Duncan, our newest Idol NV! You've done Napa proud.