By GARY PULEO
NORRISTOWN — The Montco Idol competition — possibly the only homegrown talent hunt of its kind on the East Coast — threw a spotlight on Montgomery County talent that might otherwise have gone unappreciated.
An equitable fusion of professional and average Joe opinions whittled the talent pool down to a dozen singers, then three, and finally one: Tammy Tuckey.
The 2014 Montco Idol, a senior at Hatboro-Horsham High School who now has studio time at Forge Recording waiting for her as the winner, took her Second Annual Montco Idol crusade to social media, campaigning vigorously for votes through a network of family and friends, and clinched the crown with the last of the three contenders’ performances at Norristown Arts Hill Festival last Saturday.
Montco Idol contestants Aubrey DeMedio and Molly McLane completed the lineup of young chanteuses who engaged the DeKalb Street crowd with their stunning vocal abilities.
Judges Alaina Nelson, Ron DiSilvestro and Tom Jensen were on hand to offer their professional critiques of the live performances prior to the last day of fans’ voting on Tuesday.
The judges’ assessments of the live performances counted for half of the final tally, noted contest organizer and concert emcee Mike Weekley.
“It was a very close final tally,” he said. “All three performances scored very highly with the judges, so it was a very tough decision. We made the judges more of a factor this year. Last year it was 70 percent voting, 30 percent judges. This year it was 50-50. We wanted their performance to count for more,” Weekley added, “and it just goes to show that all three performances were so good, in different ways. Aubrey had the most rocking, engaging type of performance and I think Molly probably had the best actual voice and hit the best notes, and Tammy, from a total performance perspective, was more engaging with the performance aspect of her song.”
Tuckey brought the curtain down on the show on Saturday in more ways than one with her unabashedly theatrical rendition of “That’s How You Know,” from the 2007 Disney film “Enchanted.”
Noting that she was pleased to hear more theater voices in this year’s Montco Idol competition, Nelson said that Tuckey “really embodied the character. You can’t go wrong with a theater song, ever. So, great job.”
Jensen added that Tuckey “completely owned the stage.”
In the end, Weekley mused that Tuckey’s avid self-promotion probably helped pave the road to her Montco Idol victory more than many folks might imagine.
“That part of the whole Idol concept is important,” he said. “In the music business nowadays, so many people are talented but you also have to promote yourself and engage people. That’s just the way it seems to be now.”
In the weeks before the Norristown Arts Hill performance, Tuckey said she chose to sing “I’ll Try” — from the Peter Pan sequel “Return to Neverland” — on her Montco Idol audition video because she can relate so deeply to the character Jane — daughter of Wendy — and her unwillingness to grow up too fast.
“It’s such a big transition for a teenager, especially at my age,” she said. “I’m now 18 and a legal adult and I feel like I didn’t have enough preparation for that,” she added, laughing. “I’ll be going to college and I’m just kind of confused myself: do I want to be grown up or do I want to stay a child? The song is saying, I’ll try to be what society wants me to be and grow up, but it’s not really staying true to yourself that way. In a way I don’t think anybody ever grows up. It’s a gorgeous song and it’s not just a ballad … and it’s not dreary boring. It starts out a little slow but it builds up with the emotion of the song. I enjoy all types of music — country, jazz — it just matters that the song tells a story,” Tuckey added. “And the song ‘I’ll Try’ really tells a story. All people have been through that stage, and I thought that would be a very relatable theme.”
Though the never-grow-up theme from Peter Pan may resonate deeply with Tuskey, she is already a bit of a seasoned veteran, having recently appeared as the stepmother in her school’s production of Stephen Sondheim’s “Into the Woods.”
“I love musical theater and have been doing it for many years,” she said, recalling that friends had encouraged her to enter the Montco Idol competition.
“I thought there would be hundreds of people signing up and I didn’t really look at the prizes … I just decided I would just submit it,” added the girl who said she regards Montco Idol as more of a career opportunity than a contest.
“I’m just so proud of everybody that is in the competition. It’s a real honor to be in the group. I’m very excited to be involved in it.”
Earning a spot as one of the top three in a county-wide talent competition may have been just the ticket for the singer, after having auditioned once for the behemoth that spawned it, TV’s “American Idol.”
“They just want a pop star who can sing and make money on those shows,” Tuckey said. “That is not my objective. I grew up listening to people like Judy Garland, Bing Crosby and Barbra Streisand. They all sang from the soul. I think a lot of pop stars nowadays just sing the song and don’t really mean what they sing.”
With that, the girl who was named after the Debbie Reynolds character in the 1957 movie “Tammy and the Bachelor,” broke into song on the phone.
“Tammy … Tammy … Tammy’s in love.”
With that impromptu rendition of Reynolds’ No. 1 hit, Tuckey allowed that, like the wide-eyed Tammy and the childlike Jane from “Peter Pan,” she would never try to be anyone she wasn’t.
“I don’t know what the judges are looking for. Do they want a pop star like Britney Spears or someone who is original? So I’m just going to perform as if I’m me. I’ve been doing that for so long and I don’t want to deter from what I am.”
After the show, Tuckey joined her fellow Montco Idol hopefuls to pose for photos.
“Everybody has their own opinion, so we’ll see what happens. I was just here to meet the other girls,” she said, laughing.
Follow Gary Puleo on Twitter @Mustangman48.