Singing judge is tougher job than it looks

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 16, 2011

Make no mistake, it is a lot harder then it looks to channel your inner Simon Cowell.

The British talent judge of TV’s “American Idol” and “X Factor” fame built a reputation for his snarky barbs to would-be contestants. Although this may seem easy to mirror from the comfort of your couch, it is much more difficult when the singer is standing in front of you and their families are in the audience.

Maybe that is why Cowell makes the big bucks and I was simply a volunteer at last week’s “Tri-State’s Got Talent” contest, sponsored by the Huntington Symphony Orchestra.

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I was honored when Executive Director T. Hogan Haas asked me to sit on the panel of judges. I didn’t bother to tell him that the only instrument I can play is the radio — I’m not sure an iPod counts either — and allowing me to sing would certainly clear the room.

More than two dozen contestants put their vocal talent on display in the competition that was hosted at the J.C. Stephenson Auditorium in Huntington’s City Hall. I have to say the contest was aptly named because the talent level was pretty impressive.

My fellow judges and I ultimately chose nine individuals who the public will vote on to receive the honor of singing a Christmas song prior to the HSO’s holiday concert.

To see the performances and vote for your favorite, visit the orchestra’s website at

Although some of the music and the song choices were not exactly my cup of tea, so to speak, all the candidates deserve applause for the courage to stand up on stage and audition.

All of the finalists would certainly do a good job with the holiday program.

Contests like this are great for our communities because they showcase individuals who might not otherwise have an opportunity.

With that in mind, I took it easy on the contestants and tried to offer constructive feedback when needed, deferring to experts like Kimo Furmouto, music director and conductor for the Huntington Symphony Orchestra, and Jeff Pappas, a professor in the College of Fine Arts at Marshall University.

I never thought I would say this but I guess I’m far more Paula Abdul, known for her softer critiques, than Simon Cowell. It’s probably for the best. I never was very good at a British accent anyway.

Michael Caldwell is publisher of The Tribune. To reach him, call (740) 532-1445 ext. 24 or by e-mail at