You need to look no further than Smyrna's own country star Chuck Wicks to understand that you can blossom into a famous entertainer from a small town.
The next music star to emerge from Delaware might be one of the dozen contestants duking it out at the Smyrna Opera House on Saturday — in round one of the "Smyrna's Got Voice - Kid's Rock!" singing competition.
"Smyrna's Got Voice – Kid's Rock!" is the Smyrna Opera House's annual American Idol-inspired competition featuring 14 kids throughout the state in two age groups.
The first group is for kids aged 10 to 13, and the second features performers aged 14 to 17. Each group will be reduced to five contestants for round two on March 23, then they'll be reduced to three contestants for the finale on April 27. Audience members will play a key role in the event as they decide who moves on to each round. Judges will only vote in the event of a tie.
THREE LOCAL CONTESTANTS, ONE'S A LONE-RANGER
With 14 performers in Smyrna's Got Voice, it's ironic there's only three contestants from the Smyrna-Clayton to hold down the "forte." Nonetheless, the local trio of budding singers is comprised of Smyrnians Autumn Birney, Chrystina Haldeman and Clayton's Anthony McClymont.
"I want to someday try out for American Idol," said McClymont, 14, who's an eighth-grader at Smyrna Middle School. "I would love to make a living by singing."
McClymont, whose vocal range is between baritone and tenor, will sing Eric Clapton's romantic hit "Wonderful Tonight" on Saturday.
"I really enjoy it because I can hit all the notes and it doesn't go out of my range," McClymont explained. The 14-year-old feels he'll make a good impression during his debut performance. But singing isn't the only thing on his mind heading into the show. He's concerned about being the only male contestant from the Smyrna-Clayton/M.O.T. area.
"It's going to be different," McClymont said. "Being the only guy is kind of awkward because I get along with girls, too, but if there's no guys to talk to, it's going to be awkward."
Meanwhile, the 15-year-old Birney won't feel awkward at the show. She's competed in the contest twice (2010 and 2011), her best finish being her second appearance when she advanced to the second round.
She'll cover Florence and the Machine's barouque pop song "Shake It Out."
"It has a good feel and it's kind of how my life is right now," Birney, a sophomore at Smyrna High School, said of the song. "It's pretty-much just saying there's a lot of stuff going on and you got to shake it off and keep going."
Page 2 of 2 - Birney, who's most comfy singing alto and soprano, said "I really let myself down" by choosing to sing The Beatles' "Let it Be" for round two of Smyrna's Got Voice in 2011. It's a lower-range song that, unfortunately, was out of her range and denied her an opportunity to compete in the finals.
Since then, Birney has strengthened her confidence by performing in various events. This month alone she won the "Viewer's Choice" award at Smyrna High's annual talent show, and she also performed at the Odd Fellows Cafe. This spring she'll star as Aubrey in her school's rendition of "Little Shop of Horrors."
She's looking forward to returning to the Smyrna Opera House stage, and she's also confident about her chances in the show. However, Birney's not taking the competition lightly.
"I don't want to say I feel like I should win, because there's a lot of good people," she humbly explained. "It's not really about that for me. It's about showing what I can do and having fun."
'MUSIC IS MY LIFE'
From outside her bedroom, you could hear a carefree Haldeman singing at the top of her lungs. Unaware that her mother, Sharon, was trying to get her attention for a phone interview with the Smyrna/Clayton Sun-Times, it was pretty clear then that the teenager does, in fact, live off music.
"Music is my life," beamed Haldeman, 16, a sophomore at Smyrna Christian School. "I enjoy music, singing and acting, anything that involves music."
For Haldeman's debut in Smyrna's Got Voice, the alto singer will tackle English sensation Ed Sheeran's sorrowful tune "A Team."
"I recently found out about Ed Sheeran," she said. "He's a really unique singer and he puts a lot of feeling and emotions into his songs, which you don't hear a lot."
Haldeman, who's considering a future on Broadway, believes she has a shot to make some noise in Smyrna's Got Voice. However, just like Birney, she's too modest to put herself on a pedestal.
"I wouldn't say I'm better than anyone because there's going to be people better than me," she said. "I don't know how they sing or how they present themselves in front of the audience."
IF YOU GO
WHAT "Smyrna's Got Voice – Kids Rock!" round one competition
WHEN 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 23
WHERE Smyrna Opera House, 7 W. South St., Smyrna
COST $13; $30 (family four-pack: must include two kids)
INFO smyrnaoperahouse.org or 653-4236