RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas –
With "American Idol" well into its ninth season, the second year of Randolph's own version of the pop-culture phenomenon started anew this week with audition night and will continue each Thursday night this month.
Last year's competition ended when Bruna Silva, the daughter of Col. Earl and Claudia McCallum, became the first "Randolph Idol," and project officer Steve Knechtel believes the base community's talent pool will yield another worthy winner.
"I was impressed with the talent last year," he said. "I know the talent's out there. People just need to showcase their talent."
Mr. Knechtel, 902nd Force Support Squadron community programs manager, called last year's Randolph Idol "very successful."
"We would have been happy to get 12 to 14 contestants, and we started off with 21," he said.
Audience participation played a large part in the event's initial success.
"The way we gauged success was by the size of the audience," Mr. Knechtel said. "We had 133 people the first night, and it just got bigger each week."
Nearly 230 people filled the Kendrick Club ballroom for last year's Randolph Idol finale, he said.
Mr. Knechtel said the format for the first night of the competition was different this year because of lessons learned from the first year.
"The first night took a long time because all 21 contestants sang a complete song," he said.
During the April 1 audition night this year, contestants sang without accompaniment before the panel of judges, but without finishing their songs.
The competition continues Thursday at 6 p.m. when the survivors from audition night choose a tune from the rhythm and blues/Motown songbook to sing in front of judges and an audience in the Parr O'Club's Sky Lounge, the site for each night of the event. They are also responsible for providing their own CD of backup music for the DJ one week prior to the next performance.
Contestants will choose a pop or rock song for the third week of competition and a country tune for the fourth week. For the finale April 29, the five finalists will sing two songs of their choice, but only one, also of their choice, will be judged.
Prizes will be awarded to the top three contestants - $1,000 to the winner, $500 to the first runner-up and $250 to the second runner-up.
Mr. Knechtel, who also serves as master of ceremonies, said the idea for Randolph Idol originated with Col. Alan Lake, 902nd Mission Support Group commander, who served at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., when that base had a similar competition.
"We talked to a lot of people at Tyndall, took a lot of notes and took in some shows, then developed our own program for Randolph," he said.
The competition is open to adults 18 and older who have a Department of Defense ID card. A panel of four judges, who are selected based on professional qualifications and objectivity, choose the contestants who move on to the second round. Like the "American Idol" judges, they critique performances and give participants advice. Subsequent judging is based on judges' and audience members' votes. Several contestants are eliminated from the competition each week.
Mr. Knechtel encourages the base community to come out and support the contestants each night.
"It's a great night out," he said.