Meet the inaugural Montco Idol contest’s Top 3

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NORRISTOWN — Move over, Scotty McCreery and Phillip Phillips.
Men may have dominated the “American Idol” top spot for several years, but women rule the roost in the ‘Montco Idol” winner’s circle.
In addition to being sheer revelations, music-wise, the top three chosen by fans from the judges’ dozen picks in The Times Herald’s hometown spin on “American Idol” share a desire to stir emotions in listeners and the motivation to move their careers ahead.
“They’re all on the precipice of greatness, of doing something awesome,” said “Montco Idol” organizer Mike Weekley. “You can tell that each of them has the talent to take the next step. It’s a crowning achievement to be named the top three and eventually the winner, but you can tell that each of them is destined for greatness. All three have the voice and, the way they convey themselves, the drive.”
Their backgrounds are as diverse as their choice of demo material.
Arguably the most seasoned of the three, 22-year-old Kara E. Koser of Norristown is a soon-to-be-Temple grad, a face painter for children’s parties and, last but certainly not least, an employee at The Cheesecake Factory.
The incentive behind Koser’s “Montco Idol” ambitions are as inspiring as her video, “Live Music by K.Kose,” a tuneful mélange woven around Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab”: “Picture this: I live in a house of all women, including my great aunt and grandmother who have dementia and Alzheimer’s. We all take care of each other. Money has always been pretty tight for my mother, especially as the primary caretaker in our home. Singing lessons were always too expensive to get, and with the craziness of my house, sometimes there wasn’t time for anything else but work, sleep, and care for my aunt and Bom-Bom. Knowing I’m still doing what I love despite all the hurdles we’ve crossed together would give my mother the biggest smile. Being able to meet industry professionals would be pretty awesome, too. Winning this contest would be amazing, and the chance to spread my songs’ stories is just as sweet.”
Earmarking her favorite artists as the Dave Matthews Band and the Beatles, Koser evokes all manner of female artists in her vocal style, from Billie Holiday to Stevie Nicks — perhaps not surprising for someone who lists her genre as “anything you want it to be.”
Sixteen-year-old Francesca Venezia’s powerful yet measured take on blues icon Etta James’ classic “Something’s Got a Hold On Me” surely got a grip on fans, who left such glowing comments as “you have such a unique quality to your voice … you have it all the voice, the looks, and the performance,” and “the range of your voice is outstanding” on the “Montco Idol” website at http://bit.ly/13hYvjT.
Venezia, a Fairview Village resident and Methacton High School junior, hailed Carrie Underwood and Imagine Dragons as a few of her favorite artists and noted that it was her “dream to be a successful singer-songwriter. My dad’s family has a long history in the Norristown area and it would be awesome for me to able to have them see me perform. This would be a great experience for maybe auditioning for ‘American Idol’ in the future.”
“Happy feelings” are what prompt 16-year-old Jacki Cooper of Spring City to sing.
The Owen J. Roberts High School 10th grader covered Pink’s “Perfect” for her entry into the “Montco Idol” world of friendly competition.
“Singing, entertaining and playing guitar are the only talents I have and I want to eventually be famous for those talents,” Cooper noted when asked why she wanted to be crowned the first Montco Idol. “Music is my life and I want to pursue a future in it someday. I go for every opportunity that comes my way and I cherish every performance as if it were my last.”
The three performers now dubbed most Idol-worthy by listeners will give solo performances at the outdoor Norristown Arts Hill Festival on May 4.
The individual ultimately crowned Montco Idol will get to record a professionally rendered demo at Forge Recording in Oreland, part of a prize packacge valued at $1,000, and also perform at Sam Ash Music in King of Prussia.
The second place winner will receive a $500 prize package, with a $250 prize package going to the third place winner.
“These three made the top 12 based on the judges’ opinions and then the entire community from all three papers online and print came together to vote for them,” Weekley said.
Following the announcement of the three winners, the playing field is evened out, as voting reboots at 9 a.m. EST Friday morning and continues online and in print — one vote per household per day for both formats — through May 7.
Votes may also be cast live at the Norristown Arts Hill Festival, where judges will be on hand.
The ultimate decision on a winner — to be announced May 10 in The Times Herald — will be made via a combination of votes and judges’ evaluations, Weekley explained.
“What I think will make for an exciting finish is that they all have different characteristics about their performing styles and it will be interesting to see how that translates to the stage,” he said. “And that’s important for a performer. A lot of people can record a video in the comfort of their home or anywhere else, but what will make this an exciting contest is taking it to the stage and having that be a part of the judging. Because that’s what it’s all about, being in the ‘American Idol’ style is performing in front of people. I think the person who really brings that is the one who will win.”
The overwhelmingly favorable response to “Montco Idol” bodes well for future such endeavors, Weekley allowed.
“The response we got this first year was such that we can see doing it for years to come, and we’re very excited about that. And it’s a great thing to be able to feature the contestants at Norristown Arts Hill Festival, because we think it will enhance the event and make it that much more popular. It’s a great thing for the community and for the kids to do.”
Follow Gary Puleo on Twitter @ Mustangman48.
Story by Gary Puleo, gpuleo@21st-centurymedia.com
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Ashley Campbell