Weathers excels in Hank Williams Sr Talent Showcase
Published 4:28 pm Tuesday, May 16, 2023
By Haley Mitchell Gowin
The inaugural Hank Williams Sr. Talent Showcase was held May 6, at the historic Georgiana Opry House.
Luverne High School junior Michaela Weathers made it to the top six after the judges sifted through over 100 video submissions. Although Weathers did not bring home a prize, she said the experience itself was very valuable.
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“I learned that a career in music takes a lot of time and dedication. I had a great time and now I know that it is always best to face your fears and do the best you can no matter the ultimate outcome.”
After a thrilling live performance, 20-year-old Emory Berrey of Arab emerged as the winner, impressing the judges with her original song, “It is Finished” which she wrote when going through some battles of her own.
“The song is about what Jesus has already provided to all that believe, and I truly think that His will for us is to be whole and healthy,” Berrey said. “In 2021, the day I released my first song, I lost my ability to sing and it lasted for several months. During my pleading for God to heal me, I kept feeling like I was hearing Him say, ‘You are healed.’ I didn’t understand for a while what that meant since I still had pain. What He meant was healing was available for me in the spirit realm. I just had to reach in my faith and take hold of it.”
Tracy Eason, managing owner of the Opry House, musician, and former drummer for the Robbin McCombs and the Aces and Eights band, said the competition gave aspiring young singers between the ages of 16 and 21, the opportunity to showcase their talent and receive some valuable direction.
“We wanted to recognize local talent, give them some exposure and get the word out there about the opry house being open as a cultural environment for the enjoyment of our rural area,” Eason said. “I grew up in Atlanta where I had plenty of opportunities and the chance to experience various cultures. I want the youth here to have these kinds of opportunities.”
Eason said Georgiana, Williams’s boyhood home, is a special place, and energy was high in the nearly packed house. The age range for the contest chosen was in honor of Williams’s first performance at the same venue when he was only 16.
The top six contestants received vocal coaching and were hands-on for much of the production planning where they learned about all aspects of putting a show together.
For the first round, contestants submitted a video of themselves singing. The judges then chose six acts to move on to the second stage of the competition which was the live performance in front of the judges May 6.
Berrey received a cash prize of $2,500 and a recording session with Leon Everette at The Tool Shed Recording Studio in Ward9, South Carolina. Everett, a nine-time gold record winner, RCA recording artist, 1981 “New Male Vocalist” of the year, is now touring and performing as a Country Gospel Music artist and served as one of the judges.
The second prize went to Brody Cartwright and Joseph Ealum (The BroJoBand) from Greenville who received $1,250.00. The band will perform at the 44th Annual Hank Williams Festival June 3. The BroJoBand used part of their prize money to purchase new equipment..
“My partner Brody and I took a good chuck of our winnings and put it toward a nice PA system and microphones. Recently we played a gig with our own equipment for the first time. We are thankful for this and know it will help open up some opportunities for us.”
Third prize went to Judith “Jude” Oswald from Georgiana who received a brand-new Martin X Series acoustic/electric guitar.
“I’m a beginner with the guitar and I’m very glad to have a nice one to learn with,” Oswald said. “I’m fully self-taught with the ukulele and piano and hopefully I’ll be able to say the same with the guitar. This has been such a wonderful experience because I’ve made some great new friends with similar interests in music, I’ve been able to work on my vocal abilities and stage presence, and it has fueled the flame that is my passion for music. I’m already writing my song for next year’s competition!”
Judges included renowned steel guitar player Lynn Owsley who played with Ernest Tubb and the Texas Troubadours, Lisa Zanghi, who played with Doug Stone and is a current member of the band LA Players, and Jim Vest, CEO of VEST music group out of Nashville.
Berrey said she is thankful for the experience and encourages local young artists to sign up for next year’s competition.
“The entire experience was amazing,” Berrey said. “Each singer was so talented and nice. Ms. Tracy is awesome and put so much hard work into planning the showcase. Thank you to everyone who helped and all glory goes to my Heavenly Father for this opportunity. I am so blessed to be able to record two songs for my album with Leon Everette and I should be finishing up my first-ever Contemporary Christian Album this year, the good Lord willing. We were treated like stars with a limo ride, personalized dressing rooms, lots of freebies and more.”
Registration and a link to vocal video submission auditions for the second annual event will open June 1, 2023. For more information call 251-583-2925, visit www.georgianaopryhouse.com, or check out Georgiana Opry House on social media.