After its start five years ago, The Vocalist has become a Star Valley tradition and continues to grow today.
In the summer of 2016, Swift 98.7 had just gone through a rebranding and its employees were looking for publicity.
Duke Dance and David Cazier decided to recreate something they had staged while students at Snow College: a singing competition.
The competition debuted as part of the summer festival. It was held under the elkhorn arch with a flatbed trailer as a stage.
Duke borrowed the trailer from his father and warned contestants about the hole in their makeshift stage that they could fall through if they stepped in the wrong place.
The first-place prize was $500.
Even though it may have started as a small, local event, Duke Dance said, “and now it literally is the largest vocal competition in the Intermountain West.”
It became a part of the Lincoln County Fair, initially under the big-top, until the crowds became so big that they had to move it to the arena. It is now one of the headlining events of the fair. It started as Swift Idol, in honor of the radio station, but a cease-and-desist letter from lawyers representing American Idol convinced them to change it to its current name: The Vocalist. The cash prize for first place has also grown and is now $10,000.
Duke Dance said, “Rather than just a small-town karaoke contest it became a regional draw for music talent, and it is a real competition.”
This year’s season of The Vocalist will include three events: the main competition, the winners concert, and Teen Vocalist. It will start with Teen Vocalist on Friday, April 16 at Star Valley High School. Contestants will be high schoolers from Lincoln County. This year’s grand prize for teen winner will increase from $500 to $1,000, provided by Skyview Lanes & Cineplex in Afton. Auditions will open in mid March.
The Vocalist: LIVE is the annual concert featuring past winners of the main event, including Melissa Dickey, Case Tippetts, E.J. Pauni, Josh Jardine and last year’s winner Keiyanna Osmond. The Vocalist: LIVE will be held July 2 as an outdoor concert in downtown Afton as part of the Town of Afton’s Freedom Festival. The Vocalist: LIVE will once again feature a mini competition with three local singers competing for one of the eight spots during the main event, which will be held Monday, August 9, during the Lincoln County Fair. During the fair, The Vocalist will once again be the concert in the arena.
As the competition has evolved, it started a tradition of a celebrity guest judge. For the last two years this was Alex Boyé, a British-American musician and dancer. Duke has not yet said who this year’s guest judge will be but did say that “it’s one of the biggest names to ever perform in Star Valley.” Duke will reveal the identity of this year’s celebrity judge as part of Teen Vocalist in April.
For more information on The Vocalist as well as how to audition, visit TheVocalistUSA.com.