PRESTONSBURG – The competition was so great, there couldn’t be one winner of the Big Sandy Idol regional competition.
There were two.
Clarke Sexton, of Johnson Central High School, and Haley Sullivan, of East Ridge High School, were crowned winners of the Big Sandy Idol regional competition on Saturday, March 8, at the Mountain Arts Center.
“Just when you think it can’t get any better, it does,” said Clayton Case, director of fine arts at Big Sandy Community and Technical College. “We knew it was going to be hard to pick a winner, and I wasn’t surprised when I learned the judges had a tie for the top spot.”
Sexton, 17, a junior at Johnson Central, performed the Chris Stapleton hit “What are you listening to.” Stapleton, a Johnson County native, is a rising country star and songwriter.
“The song just felt right to me,” said Sexton, who earned a spot in Saturday’s show by winning Friday’s wildcard round featuring runner-up winners from the Big Sandy Idol school competition. It marked the second time in the competition’s eight-year history that a wildcard winner had won the regional competition.
Sexton performed with a soundtrack on Friday, but Saturday, he had to perform his song with a band.
He was flawless.
“I’d rather perform with a band,” he said. “It’s something I am more comfortable doing.”
Sullivan, 17, a senior at East Ridge High School, brought the house to their feet by playing the Ray Charles classic “Georgia On My Mind.”
“I’m just blessed to have this opportunity,” said Sullivan, who also played the piano during the performance. “I had been in the regional competition before, and I know the level of talent that is here. It’s an honor to be named one of the winners.”
Sullivan plans on attending Big Sandy Community and Technical College next year. Both Sullivan and Sexton earned a full-paid one-year scholarship to the school and a spot on the coveted Big Sandy Singers, an elite, auditioned group of BSCTC students.
This year, the Big Sandy Singers expanded with the implementation of an acoustic band. Sullivan – and her skills playing the piano, guitar and other instruments – will take the group to new levels.
“I’m looking forward to it,” she continued, “and I am looking forward to learning and becoming the best musician and vocalist I can be.”
Sullivan and Sexton also won $300 each and a full CD recording (courtesy of TubeFi Studios). Their albums will be released during next year’s Big Sandy Idol regional competition.
Over the weekend, Jerica Grim, a senior at Johnson Central and the 2013 Big Sandy Idol winner, released her debut CD, along with compilation albums from the Big Sandy Singers and this year’s Big Sandy Idol regional competition participants.
Ally Davis, of Prestonsburg High School, finished second. She performed “Hallelujah.” Payton Trout, of Belfry High School, was third. He performed “To Make You Feel My Love” by Bob Dylan.
Big Sandy Idol is sponsored by Gearheart Communications. The program holds school-based auditions and shows, and selects a school winner and runner-up who competes in the regional competition.