When the Lamorinda Idol Finals were held in the Orinda Community Park, due to pandemic restrictions in 2021, Miranda Klein was performing What is this Feeling from Wicked with Anna Tanner.
Klein, now 11, and a four-time champion, said, “We were in the middle of the song when a big wind blew Anna’s witch hat right off her head and off the stage. We almost burst out laughing but we held it together and didn’t miss a note.”
Miranda’s mother, Jennifer, said, “We have found Lamorinda Idol to be a welcoming community of talented kids and lovely families. Steve Harwood is a fantastic leader and advocate for these youth singers.”
Lamorinda Idol began in 2006, when American Idol was in its fourth season and breaking records as one of the most successful shows in broadcasting history. The show captured the imaginations of Art Council members Susan Garell and Petra Michel, whose daughters inspired them to create Orinda Idol, a youth singing competition, which became an instant success. It evolved to include Lafayette and Moraga.
Based on American Idol, singers submit audition videos as soloists or groups in grade-based categories. In April, 84 soloists and 18 groups auditioned.
On August 20, in the Orinda Theatre, 34 soloists and 12 groups will compete for cash prizes before a panel of three judges. Their song selections span genres from Broadway tunes to classic, country and contemporary pop favorites, and like the TV show, there is an Audience Award.
Since April, runners-up and finalists are busy with workshops and public performances.
Harwood, chairman since 2009, has witnessed the competition’s evolution.
“At its core, the program is an opportunity for young people to pursue their passion for singing and bringing joy to the community,” he said.
Sally Hogarty, past Master of Ceremonies and a judge for several years, said she is always pleasantly surprised at the level of talent.
“I have been truly blown away by many of the singers, including some as young as seven-years-old,” said Hogarty.
Svea Peterson, a tenth grader and competitor since 2018, has benefited from the sessions Rena Wilson, a professional vocal coach, offers to the finalists.
“Rena is insightful in enhancing your vocal techniques and connecting to the emotional parts of a song,” said Peterson.
Peterson also attributed the different venues to helping her growth as a vocalist.
“I’ve learned to be patient with myself and have gained overall confidence in my music abilities and in situations that require stage presence,” she added.
Lamorinda Idol helped Peterson connect with other singers, leading to the formation of “4 O’Clock,” a group of high school students who have sung together for five years.
Some of the participants hope to pursue professional careers, but regardless, Lamorinda Idol has provided valuable life skills, particularly how to handle high-pressure, nerve-wracking situations.
Palig Houlipan, a rising eighth grader, said at last year’s finals, she kept missing the beat during practice.
“I started to freak out and my parents told me not to overthink it,” she said. “Once on stage, I told myself to go for it. I disguised my worry and it felt like a little miracle because I didn’t mess up.”
Houlipan gives advice to others.
“Do what you love and don’t let others peer pressure you,” she said. “I used to think it was embarrassing to admit I loved singing. Finally, I realized I shouldn’t hide what I’m passionate about.”
Amy Moellering can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.