by Jordan West

CLEVELAND, Ga. (TMNews) – The Sewell-Plunkett Chapel was the warmest place to be every Monday night during the month of February, as Truett-McConnell hosted the annual TMC Singing Competition. Groups, trios, duos, and solo artists alike shared the stage for four weeks, competing until the winner was chosen on Monday, February 23.

Eight acts began the competition, but only three acts remained for the finale: the finalists were: Caspian Bowers, Kirsten West accompanied by Jake Williams and Jared Brooks accompanied by Laura Waters and Jacob Moore.

Hosts J.C. Hitzing and Meredith Mellard entertained guests and welcomed the artists to the stage each week. The lighthearted pair enjoyed the crowd and the crowd enjoyed the jokes which were shared onstage. Mellard laughed when asked about her experience as a host, saying: “I enjoy being able to mess up, and it was okay! People still laugh at me. Also, I’ve gotten to meet new people; like I hadn’t met Caspian before the competition, and that was really cool.”

Her co-host, Hitzing, agreed: “I had a blast hosting the singing competition this year!”

An integral part of the competition is the judging. Judges Kim Gordon, a former TMC music major and current Admissions Representative, and Dr. Joseph Wiegand, a TMC professor, returned each week to the judges table. The third judging slot was filled with a guest judge who changed each week. Benjamin Garrison, a TMC Resident Director and current graduate student, guest judged during the third week of competition and explained the judging process using a comparison: “It’s like finding a diamond in the rough!”

A musician in the making

The singing competition allows opportunities for students of all majors and social circles to come together for the common interest of entertainment. Bailey Jarnagin, a TMC junior, shared her favorite part of the competition, stating, “It was neat to see the contestants come out of their shells and stretch themselves musically!”

Third-place winner Jared Brooks, accompanied by Laura Waters and Jacob Moore, said, “It’s a fun time for everybody to come together and spend time listening to good music and getting everyone’s mind off of school.”

Brooks loved not only being a performer, but being an audience member as well. He complimented his competition, saying, “Everyone has been so great; all eight people that came through were good. It’s been fun every week, and everyone’s brought their A-Game. Tonight, there are a little bit of extra nerves. I’ve really enjoyed Caspian, overall. He just always brings it.”

Second-place winner Kirsten West, a TMC freshman who was accompanied on piano and vocals by Jake Williams, emphasized how much she enjoyed getting to know students she hadn’t previously met. “I liked meeting new people,” she said. “There are some people in the competition that have been a part of it that I had never really talked to before, and that has been really fun.”

The winner of the competition, freshman Caspian Bowers, was impressed weekly by the students he was competing against. “I think they are all really talented, so it’s a little nerve-wracking to go up against them,” he said.

Entertaining in style

Each week, the competition had a different theme. The February 23 finale was no different. It was “80’s Night,” and each artist chose a song of his or her choice from that specific genre.

Bowers was the first performer of the night, and demonstrated his vocal variety by singing “Wanted Dead or Alive” by Jon Bon Jovi. He received rave reviews, with guest judge Andrew Gailey commenting, “I hadn’t heard you before, but I would like to hear you again.”

Judge Kim Gordon agreed, saying, “A lot of people can sing really well, a lot of people can play the guitar really well, but not a lot of people can do both at the same time. You’re very gifted, very talented, and that was an awesome performance.”

Bowers continued to receive excellent critique, and Gailey encouraged him after his second performance, “Chariot” by Gavin DeGraw, with, “Brother, you have a gift. I’d buy your album, I promise.”

West was up next, singing a reprise of Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.” She received high praise from the judges. Wiegand pulled out his iPhone and showed the audience the image of a lighter on the screen, and said, “This one gets my full lighter; Fantastic song, great selection. Love the arrangement. You sounded incredible.”

Her final song was Christina Perri’s “A Thousand Years,” and Gordon called it “a masterpiece”. Wiegand chimed in as well, saying, “It was phenomenal from the first note to the very end. Congratulations.”

Brooks, Waters, and Moore entertained the crowd well with their first performance, singing “Livin’ on a Prayer” by Bon Jovi. Their act included dancers, which created mixed reviews. Wiegand said, “Individually, vocal, guitar, drums, take it all separately, it was all good. You’re all very talented and that was very evident. I think that song was a bit too much how you tried to convey it to this room, for this time.”

Though she enjoyed the performance, Gordon said she thought that it was “missing something.”

Their second performance, a mash-up of Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space” and “Style,” received much more complimentary feedback. Gailey admitted, “I was pretty hard on you guys last time, but I think that was phenomenal.”

Gordon loved the performance, saying they were “really in their element” and that the group “definitely redeemed themselves from the first performance”.

And the winner is…

After a special performance from last year’s winner, Jeffery Chandler, the audience’s votes were counted and the results were revealed. Bowers took the first place prize, while West received second place and Brooks received third place.

West was thankful for the experience of singing with her longtime friend. “Jake and I have been singing and playing together in a band with our siblings and friends since we were 11 or 12.” When asked about her future plans following the competition, she said, “We’ve always taken it one opportunity at a time and I’m excited to see what the future holds.”

Bowers called winning the competition, “surreal and shocking.” “The most nerve-wracking seconds in the entire competition were the three seconds before they announced the winner, and I am pretty sure I could feel my heartbeat in my legs,” Bowers said. “I am also extremely honored that so many people voted for me, enough for me to win apparently, but am still so grateful and blessed!”

He remained complimentary after his win, saying, “Everyone performed to their best and I was proud to be with such great people and musicians.”

As far as his future plans for his music, Bowers responded, “I would really love to keep writing music, singing, playing guitar and piano, and eventually record an album. I love singing for Christ above anything else. I would really like to become a Christian artist someday and also lead worship and teach guitar.”

The 2015 TMC Singing Competition was a fun, friendly competition where students were able to support their friends as they performed weekly. Bowers, West, and Brooks all expressed their enjoyment in performing, and audience members confidently shared their entertainment in watching.


Jordan is a junior English major and a freelance writer for TMC.

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