SAFFORD — Last week, veterans of the Gila Idol vocal competition were selected to go to the finals; this week it was the first-timers who shined.
Elayne Hanchett, Anne Bigler and Sam Colwell were selected by the judges to go to the 19th annual Gila Idol finals, during Thursday’s preliminary at The Venue and Vignette on Main in Safford.
Colwell sang “All I Ask” and said it took them a little while to work up the nerve to perform at a preliminary.
“For the past couple of years I have been doing karaoke at random places, and people kept telling me to do Gila Valley Idol, but I was really nervous,” Colwell said.
Bigler, who sang “Burning House,” sings choir at Eastern Arizona College. However, she said signing alone and a cappella is different from what she’s used to.
“Every performer always has performance anxiety; I think that’s a normal thing,” Bigler said. “So I had to get through that, but once I started signing and opened my mouth, it was amazing the support that the audience gave.”
Hanchett, who sang “Easy On Me,” said it also took her a few years to get up the nerve to perform, but she’s looking forward to the chance to sing at the finals.
“I’m very excited — kind of scared — but excited for the new experience,” Hanchett said. “Whether I win or not it doesn’t matter.”
Two singers will get another chance at making the finals, when they perform at call back night at the Trekasges Theater at the David M. Player Center for the Arts on March 14. They are Ayla Finch, who performed “Cowboy Take Me Away,” and McKay Griffen, who performed “Your Man.”
The judges also selected one alternate, Jake Richardson, who sang “Waving Through a Window.” An alternate will be selected at each preliminary and, in the week before the finals, the public will vote on the performances on GilaValleyCentral.net. The top vote-getter will become a finalist.
Judges were 2023 Gila Idol winner Zaylie Windsor, who opened the night with two songs, “Rolling in the Deep” and “Still Into You”; 2011 winner Sharon Montoya and 2008 winner Adam Crohn.
The audience also received a preview this weekend’s Gila Valley Fiddle Contest and Music Festival, with a five-piece acoustic performance of “Cold Cold Heart,” and Nashville recording artist Phoebe Hunt teaming with Will Vincent to perform the title track off Hunt’s new album, “Nothing Else Matters.”
All of Thursday’s performances can be viewed on the Gila Idol 2024 page at Gila Valley Central.
The next preliminary will take place Thursday, Feb. 15, at 6:30 p.m. at Double R Grill at Mt. Graham Golf Club.
Sponsors for 2024 Gila Idol include Valley Telecom Group; Richard’s Music Co.; Trophies ‘N Tees; Freeport-McMoRan; Mack’s NAPA Auto Parts; the Double R Bar and Grill; Valley Furniture and Appliance; Tyson Richins — Edward Jones Investments; the Graham County Chamber of Commerce; OneAZ Credit Union; Manor 415 Event Center; The Venue & Vignette on Main; Valley Vision; and the Double R Communications family of radio stations, Kat Kountry 94.5 FM, Sunny 102.3 FM and KATO 1230 AM.