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NEWS | March 28, 2013

'Idol Factor' debuts with new name, same thrills

By Alex Salinas Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph Public Affairs

The singing competition, formerly called Randolph Idol, opened Thursday night at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph's Parr Club with a new name - Idol Factor - and a new format.

In addition to the name change, Idol Factor now features younger contestants starting at age 13; a new category for groups; age subcategories for solo contestants; and weekly themes covering specific decades of music, including the '50s and '60s April 11, '70s and '80s April 18, and the '90s through the present April 25.

What hasn't changed is the event's ability to discover gifted performers.

"We started this competition in 2009 and since then, I continue to be amazed at the level and quality of singing talent in the JBSA area," Steve Knechtel, 902nd Force Support Squadron community programs manager and Idol Factor coordinator, said.

However, a founding guest judge on Idol Factor said there is more room for change.

"We (Bexar county) are behind the times when it comes to showcasing our music," Beverly Houston, an eight-time San Antonio Current Music Awards-winner said. Houston has opened for well-known artists B.B. King, Bobby Bland and Etta James. "We've got some good talent, but all they need is a little bit of coaching, and Idol Factor is one more solution to offering that."

Other than cash prizes of $1,000 for winning first place, $500 for second place and $250 for third place, Idol Factor champions have earned local recognition in some form.

"Previous winners have been asked to sing the national anthem at Nelson Wolff Stadium before San Antonio Missions baseball games and for various ceremonies on- and off-base," Knechtel said.

While winning the competition can boost a singer's career, participants may get the piece of advice needed to improve their craft, Houston said.

"I don't know if teaching the 'it-factor' is possible, but listening to music and studying it goes a long way," she said.

Similar to competitive singing shows on TV, Idol Factor judges aim to give honest evaluations to contestants.

"I try not to be mean, but I also don't sugarcoat my critiques," Jim Hale, Air Force Personnel Center Civilian Human Resource Production Division chief and founding guest judge, said.

According to Knechtel, Hale is "the Simon Cowell of Randolph."

"I try to present my input in an entertaining way," Hale added. "There are few who have big talent, some who are better served singing karaoke and a few who should only sing in the shower.

"But it's the diversity of the talent that makes the show. I am always waiting for those one or two performances when the performer captures and owns the entire room, when their voice silences an audience."

The scoring system relies 50 percent on the audience and 50 percent on the judges, whose combined votes determine which contestants advance.

Audience members ages 13 and older will be given voting chips, so people with a Department of Defense ID card are encouraged to attend, Knechtel said.

Shows begin at 6 p.m. The April 11 performance will be at the Parr Club Sky Lounge. Shows on April 18, 25 and May 3, which is the finale, will be at the Parr Club International Ballroom.

There is no entrance fee, and food and drinks will be available throughout the evening.