Amid the chaos of the band practicing on stage while students chatted and scuffed their metal folding chairs on the gym floor in the Schilling Center Friday night, something holy was taking place. Behind the double doors to the hallway that doubled as a green room, the 10 Liberty Idol contestants stood arm in arm, circling their vocal coaches who led them in prayer before the group broke into “I Love You Lord,” acapella. This may not be how they do things on American Idol, but this is how they are done at Liberty.
The Liberty Idol event was the idea of Program Director of Black Student Initiative (BSI) Princess Patterson and was led by John Swann, who emceed the event. BSI is a department of the Center4Me, located in Dorm 20 on the Hill.
Jacqueline Mshamma, Amanda Haas, Ashton Kamphuis, Taylor Jones, Nia Anderson, Randall Scott Carroll, Joel Kaiser, Ray Jones, Freddie Collins and Joshua Cole are all Liberty students who performed for the title of the first Liberty Idol. Though judges Daniela Swann, Phillip Sutton and guest judges David McKinney and Dr. Ergun Caner said that deciding the winner was nearly impossible, freshman Taylor Jones came out with the title and a $100 gift card to Wal-Mart.
“Every one of these kids come in, they have the ability to sing, they evolve through everything, and they came down to the final 10,” Caner said. “The only thing that could go wrong is that they miss a note.”
While notes were missed, many contestants were in perfect pitch. Each performer brought the audience to their feet almost every time as they made their way through different genres of music including Motown, Christian, country and finally disco.
Throughout the evening, behind the double doors, both contestants who had been cut and those that remained waited patiently, encouraging each other on their performances.
“We have become family, and it will be sad to see us whittled down to one,” Ray Jones said. “You get so overwhelmed and so worked up with adrenaline. Some of that is excitement for each other. Sometimes we forget it’s a competition.”
Ray, who received second place, was the stand-out performer of the night, according to Caner. “If you are not on television one day there is no justice in this world,” Caner said to Ray during his critique.
However, McKinney stood by Taylor and said that while Ray was the performer of the group, she had the better voice.
Taylor graciously received her award at the end of the competition and received news of a surprise opportunity to sing at convocation Tuesday, May 4. Having narrowly missed auditions for ministry teams, which was her dream upon coming to Liberty, this opportunity was the real win, according to Taylor.
“I was shocked, are you kidding. It feels amazing,” Taylor said. “Getting to sing at convocation is probably the best part of this whole thing, I am thrilled about that opportunity. I am so excited.”