By Bailey Jarnagin

CLEVELAND, Ga (TMNews) – As the second semester of the year progresses, students break from their studies to attend the annual Truett-McConnell College Singing Competition. Musicians from across campus took the stage three Monday nights in a row to perform for their peers. Each round of the competition resulted in the elimination of artists until, on February 8, one winning act was chosen by the students.

A stage full of talent

In the first round of the competition, fourteen acts bravely sang before a room packed with eager students. The acts then listened as they were critiqued by judges J.C. Hitzing, Student Development/Game Ops Coordinator; Kim Gordon, Admissions Representative; and Dr. Becky Lombard, Professor of Music/Fine Arts – Chair. By the end of the night, the judges had selected eight acts who would be continuing to the second round.

“This year I feel like it was harder to send people home because of the caliber of musicians we saw,” said Gordon. “They were all pretty good.”

The eight remaining acts approached their audience more confidently in the second round. Many considered the judges’ critiques from the previous week and attempted to improve their numbers.

“My favorite part of judging is to see how students take what they’re told, what they’re taught, and then change it the next week,” shared Gordon.

For some, however, the improvements were not enough to deliver them to the third week. Only four acts continued on to the final round, where they were expected to impress the crowd and judges with not only one, but two songs.

And the winner is…

Dr. Joseph Wiegand, Associate VP for Academic Services & Interim VP for Finance and Operations, joined the judging panel the final night in order to provide a fresh, perspective. Wiegand was pleased with the performances he saw during the third round.

“It was great to hear everyone’s different style and approach,” stated Wiegand. “They were all quality and they all should have been here.”

Following the final act, ballots were distributed to the TM students in attendance. The students were given the opportunity to vote for their favorite act. The suspense built as the crowd waited for the votes to be tallied. Finally, the verdict was announced.

The competition’s runner-up and the recipient of a one-hundred dollar prize was sophomore Jared Brooks. Brooks has recorded two EPs and often plays at public venues in the local area. He writes his own music and enjoys playing his original songs while receiving valuable feedback.

“I like just getting up on stage, performing, and seeing how people react,” shared Brooks. “The audience gives direct feedback. It’s not hidden because it’s what they’re hearing right off the bat. I can tell if they like it or if they think it’s terrible by the looks on their faces. It’s kind of cool to look out and see the reactions.”

By popular vote, the winners of the competition and the recipients of a two-hundred dollar prize were juniors Matthew Webb, Peter Kough, and Avery Fleming. The trio viewed their victory as the culmination of three years of effort.

“We were in [the competition] the last two years,” stated Webb. “I was like, ‘Well, we’ve got to do it again.’ The last two years we made it to the second round, but not past that. This feels pretty great.”

The TM singing competition was not the first event at which Webb, Kough, and Fleming performed. The three have a history of leading worship together in Truett-McConnell’s weekly chapel service.

“When we joined the worship band, we three were in a car just riding around campus yelling, ‘we’re in a band!’” Kough continued, “To do this together, all three of us, it was fun.”

Singing competition connections

The three winners were not the only ones reunited through the musical performances. As one of the most widely attended events on campus, the whole student body is able to connect with those outside of their departments throughout the duration of the competition.

“I like to be a part of the whole Truett-McConnell community, and not just the music division,” said Lombard, judge.

TM singing competition host, junior Catherine Smith, echoed Lombard’s sentiments of inclusivity: “It’s nice to see a lot of different faces and meet some new people, too.”

As emcees of the event, Smith and fellow host, junior Fletcher Humphrey, were responsible for introducing each act and providing intermittent comedic relief.

“It was a little nerve-wracking at first because you just want everyone to laugh at your jokes, but it was a lot of fun, and I’d love to do it again,” said Smith.

“It was an absolute blast,” agreed Humphrey. “I love celebrating people’s talents. I had a lot of fun getting people hyped up for what the artists were going to do.”

The 2016 TM Singing Competition has just come to a close, but students are already anticipating what next year’s competition will hold. With a vast array of talent on Truett-McConnell’s campus, quality acts are ready to entertain.


Bailey is a senior English major and a freelance writer for the college.

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