MOUNT VERNON — Graduating from car-ride sing-a-longs and solo shower concerts, some of Knox County’s youngest talents have taken to the stage for the first time during the annual youth talent showcase, which began Thursday afternoon. The showcase runs all weekend on the First-Knox South Stage starting at noon Friday and 1 p.m. Saturday.
The 2018 youth showcase features vocal performance, both with a CD track and live instrumental; juggling; and tap dance.
The showcase allows young performers to experience the thrill of performing live in an audition-free environment.
“We want to give them an opportunity to perform on stage and the festival is the perfect way to do that,” organizer Susan Kahrl said. “It’s a showcase for the festival to give kids all over the county an opportunity without competing, without auditioning, just to be on stage. It’s open to the world.”
She explained that the youth showcase often serves as a stepping-stone for the young performers to go on to have their own half-hour long shows at the festival. As the performers become more comfortable, she said, they will branch off, so the youth showcase is a “feeding-ground for the rest of the rest of the festival.”
The showcase allows the young performers to grow in confidence, she said.
“I love watching their confidence grow each day,” Kahrl said. “It’s so cool.”
For a few acts and performers, the youth showcase this year turned into a family event. Cousins Hannah Blubaugh, 11; Olivia Bryant, 13; Rachel Bryant, 14; and Lacey Blubaugh, 17 performed in a quartet they dubbed the B4 quartet. The cousins performed the pop song “Geronimo” by Sheppard and “Never Alone” by Lady Antebellum. They explained that they were pushed to begin performing together by Hannah and Lacey’s mother, Heather.
“We’ve all always sang. I’m just the only one that’s been out there with it, Lacey said. “So my mom has been trying for years to get Rachel and Olivia and Hannah to do it too, and then this year it worked out.”
The cousins have performed elsewhere before, in choirs and musicals, they explained, but this is their first year performing at the festival. They have enjoyed singing together and plan to continue with the quartet.
The youth showcase is the best way for young talent to learn to express themselves, Kahrl said. “A lot of them are doing this at home, in front of mirrors or in their bedrooms, and so this is a chance for them to do it for an audience, to gain some poise and to realize that they can do it, that no one is judging them. They’re just embracing it, to me that’s really important.”