BRANDON — They’ve come from all over Rutland County. Some of them are teachers, some are bartenders, some have kids, some are kids, but one thing they all have in common is they can carry a tune.
One of them will be the very first “Brandon Idol,” and the winner of $1,000.
“Brandon Idol” is a singing competition put forth by the Brandon Town Recreation Department. The program kicked off in January with 24 contestants, said Recreation Director, Bill Moore on Thursday.
“We had three judges, they whittled them down to nine finalists, and those nine finalists then had to agree to make themselves available for these five concerts,” said Moore. “The first concert we did with the nine finalists was on Feb. 16 at the Brandon Town Hall.”
There will be four more Brandon Idol concerts, said Moore. All but the last are at the Brandon Town Hall, starting at 7 p.m. with a $5 per person entry fee. The next one is Saturday. Proceeds support the Recreation Department.
For Saturday’s concert, “County Snow Boots,” each contestant will have to sing a country song. Contestants sang a Broadway show-tune at the first concert.
“For a lot of these singers it was a departure for them,” said Moore, adding that most contestants are in small bands, or used to singing karaoke at small venues. The first event drew 235 people, said Moore.
The final concert will be held at the Brandon Carnival on June 7. Admission is free. The singers will each get to pick their own song to sing before a panel of judges, and if they win they’ll get $1,000, said Moore.
One contestant is Kiamana Wanner, of West Rutland, who sings country and hip-hop songs. Wanner said Thursday that for the “Brandon Does Broadway” event he was assigned “Dear Theodosia,” from the show “Hamilton,” neither of which he’d heard of beforehand.
Wanner said learning the song took several weeks.
“I heard about Brandon Idol over Facebook,” he said. “A lot of people sent me the link.”
He’s been a singer his entire life. “My family is big into music,” he said.
Wanner likes songs by country star Chris Young, as well as those of Post Malone, a hip-hop artists. For Saturday’s performance he plans to sing “Boondocks” by Little Big Town.
He said if he wins the $1,000, he plans to spend half talking his girlfriend on a trip, and put the other half in a savings account for his six-month-old daughter.
Moore said he got the idea for Brandon Idol from the town’s new — As of Town Meeting Day — Assistant Recreation Director, Colleen Wright.
“Had Facebook and Instagram come out 25 years ago she’d be an influencer,” said Moore. “She’s just this bundle of energy, really cares about the community, which is why it was perfect to hire her.”
“We are so excited,” said Wright on Thursday. “When we started we thought we’d get a few good singers and a lot bad singers. We only got good singers.”
She said the event has been a positive experience for everyone, especially the contestants, who’ve grown as people while stepping outside their comfort zones on stage.
Moore said the remaining idol concerts will be April 6 for “Blues for Breakfast,” May 25, “Rock and Roll Fantasy,” and “The Finale,” June 7, at the Brandon Carnival in Estabrook Park.
Moore said local businesses and groups have been selling concessions at the events, raising money for causes. Contestants are from places like Goshen, Brandon, Fair Haven, Rochester, and Rutland, with a wide range of ages and backgrounds, said Moore. The contest was limited to people at least 16 years old. He said he hopes this will become an annual event.
“What’s nice about it is it’s not this cut-throat thing like American Idol where you’ve got some snarky British guy telling you you’re doing a terrible job, it’s really this community driven, way to kind of help these people become better,” Moore said. “These are people with fantastic voices.”