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Kingsport Idol seeks next singing sensation

Marci Gore • Apr 16, 2016 at 9:00 PM

KINGSPORT — Mark Kilgore was working as a community center director for Kingsport Parks and Recreation in 2006 when he dreamed up the idea of a talent show for local youth.

Little did he know at the time that Kingsport Idol would become a showcase for aspiring singers of all ages from throughout the Mountain Empire.

“We started it as a local youth competition, and then the adults wanted to do it as well,” said Kilgore, who now works as the recreation coordinator at Bays Mountain Park but still serves as the show’s coordinator and host. “We started out with about 50 entries the first year and didn't really know what to expect. Last year we had over 250 to register, and the crowds of [spectators] keep increasing, too. We had 1,300 people for the finale last year.”

Registration is currently underway for Kingsport Idol 2016 and will continue through April 30. It’s free to register and audition; however, there is a $35 entry fee for contestants who are chosen by the judges to compete in the live performances.

Auditions will be held May 3 for contestants ages 18 to 24; May 5 for ages 8 to 13; May 10 for ages 25 and older; and May 12 for ages 14 to 17. All auditions begin at 6 p.m. in the Kingsport Renaissance Center, located at 1200 E. Center St.

Contestants will perform a song of their choice a cappella for the judges in a closed audition room. Family and friends are not allowed inside.

Live competition rounds, which are open to the public, begin May 31 and will continue through July 12.

The finale will be held July 30.

“When they get ready to do the live performances, they get a list of songs that they choose from — maybe 50 songs per age group. They don’t even know what the category is going to be. Everybody works so hard. But what I like about this competition is it’s something the whole family can do. We have mothers and daughters and brothers and sisters competing,” said Kilgore.

The first- and second-place finishers in each age group will receive cash prizes and studio time. Kilgore said he also hopes to be able to send the winners to audition for nationally televised singing competitions such as “The Voice.”

A number of past winners have parlayed their Kingsport Idol victories into further successes.

“Five of our past winners have signed contracts in Nashville, and one has signed a contract in Los Angeles. You never know who’s listening or coming to watch the shows,” Kilgore said. “In previous years, we had a couple of producers come from Nashville to judge the competition.”

Sponsors for this year’s event are Knoxville TVA Employees Credit Union, Bays Mountain Park and Planetarium, Music Doctors, USA Raft, Cross Country Mortgage, ABC Tri-Cities and WXBQ 96.9.

To register for Kingsport Idol or for more information, visit www.kingsportidol.com or call (423) 230-6357.

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