| ALL SMILES – West Tennessee Idol winner Madison Hilliard, right, hugs Kendra Vailes, who placed second, after they received trophies on Sunday evening at The Ned in downtown Jackson. |
Photo by Katie Brake, The Jackson Sun
After graduating from high school, Madison Hilliard wants to study at Belmont University’s School of Music.
On Sunday, judges at the eighth annual West Tennessee Idol told the Greenfield teenager that her singing talent would fit in at Belmont’s respected music department.
The three Nashville judges were impressed enough to name Hilliard the winner of the competition, give her a $1,000 award and a shot at the Colgate Country Showdown’s state competition in the fall.
Nationally syndicated entertainment radio reporter Jimmy Carter said Hilliard’s talents potentially could get her jobs on Broadway.
“I hope you don’t limit yourself only thinking you could be a country singer,” said Carter, who returned as a judge. “You’re a diamond in the rough. Don’t limit yourself to thinking you can’t look at acting.”
Hilliard said she was surprised and excited to win the competition.
The 17-year-old, who will be a senior at Greenfield High School this fall, has been singing in church and taking part in competitions since she was 4 years old.
But she still was a little nervous on Sunday. “No matter how many people there are or how many times I’ve done the same thing, it’s always nerve-wracking,” she said.
The 10 finalists each performed two songs before a packed crowd Sunday at the Ned R. McWherter West Tennessee Cultural Arts Center. At the end, judges picked the top three, with Kendra Vailes of Humboldt and Lexington’s Lindsey Russell finishing in second and third place, respectively.
The finalists made it through the audition round that saw more than 200 hopefuls try out. WYN 106.9 FM’s Shane Connor hosted the event.
The winner of the national Colgate Country Showdown will receive $100,000. Country music stars such as Garth Brooks and LeAnn Rimes have competed in past Country Showdowns.
Following Hilliard’s first performance Sunday of “A Broken Wing,” judges touted her ability to carry out a Martina McBride song.
“When this song started, I knew it was some big shoes to fill,” said singer and songwriter Richie McDonald. “You were spot on. I think your performance was perfect.”
Nancy Tunick, managing partner of Grassroots Promotion in Nashville, said that Hilliard’s “performance was incredibly clean.”
“It felt comfortable as far as pitch is concerned,” said Tunick, who has been recognized by Music Row Magazine as Best Independent Promoter in Nashville.
Editor’s note: This article is courtesy of The Jackson Sun.