October 10, 2013
By Maleena Lawrence
LAWT Contributing Writer
Bakewell Media has created an opportunity for local people in the community as well as viral supporters to showcase their vocal range at the largest street festival in Los Angeles, the Taste Of Soul on October 19, 2013. This year the Baldwin Hills Mall was the place to be for rising stars who desired a shot to showcase their talent in the second annual StarQuest Singing Competition. Where crowds stand shoulder-to-shoulder hovering the stage with amplified cheers too support their loved ones during the final competition. However, what people do not fully witness are the days and weeks leading up to the actual competition. Starting at the front of the line with artist to behind-the-scenes with the judges and production crew on Day 1 of the auditions, every one possessed a level of motivation to accomplish whatever they were set out to deliver.
Gliding up the escalators of the Mall, the first thing I saw was a growing line of contestants outside of Macy’s. Then the animated voice of DJ Paradise shouts, “Yall know the rules and in case you missed something, I’ll say it again, you have one minute and 30 seconds to perform and impress the celebrity judges right away.” Shortly after the rules, my attention was strictly diverted to the talent. I wanted to know their intentions, feel their nerves and the expectations that they had for themselves on and off the stage. The opening performance was a gospel artist named Always Carey who wanted to bring the energy, be an Ambassador to set it off and get people off their nerves and bring only their talent. He was followed by the female gospel group, D.B. Milton and Company singing, It’s Not All In Vain. This year’s competition started off with a praising Sunday’s Best vibe until performances from artist like Evrywhr accompanied with Robert Amerson on guitar sang “40 Nights.” Angie a soulful soloist connected with “Positivity,” the crooning vocals of On Poynte and even the return of the inaugural StarQuest winner, Beau Williams taking a bow after receiving a standing ovation for his performance, A Change Is Gonna Come by Sam Cooke all of which helped to bring more of a mixed musical genre to engage the judges.
Judging a competition like StarQuest takes a diverse accumulation of the very best in the entertainment industry. On Day 1, the panel of celebrity judges included: Celebrity Vocal Coach, Willie Norwood; Actress, Tanjareen; Entertainment Executive, Dexter Story; StarQuest Producer, Yvette Bailey; Sentinel Managing Editor, Brandon Brooks; Producer, Rayva Harrell; Comedian and 2013 Taste of Soul Host, Jonathan Slocumb; Industry Executive and Manager, Marcus Grant; SoulTrain Producer, Tony Cornelius; Singer and Finalist on Season 2 of the Voice, Jesse Campbell; Music Executive, Bobby Wilkerson and Music Giant, Ken Wilson. Collectively, you have a mogul league of judges with over 200 years of professional experience in the entertainment industry meaning—bring your A-Game. They all were looking for originality. Tony Cornelius and Ken Wilson both agreed that everybody can’t make it and it takes courage, originality, a good performance, stage presence and the need for real talent is what they are looking for during the auditions. Rayva expressed Day 1 as being her second time around with this year’s talent taking it to the next level. She and Tanjareen are looking for a connection that gives you chills and demonstrates a love for what you are doing. Either way it goes, Jonathan Slocumb said it best, “Great talent and no talent, we hope to pick the greatest.”
In the meantime, there was a well organized team of individuals checking in talent and keeping track of the performance schedules. Nick, the Production Manager smiled graciously saying, “My job is to make sure each and every element is working smoothly as possible and we cover everything from crew, volunteers, food, talent, everything.” In the flow of the day, I bumped into the production coordinator, Damon Oliver who provides Nick with what he needs to keep the show rolling for the producers. Kayl supports Talent and IT as Bishop Moore, the central camera man captured the day of make it or break it performances. Towards intermission, the man who makes it all possible, Mr. Danny Bakewell spoke to the hearts and minds of the entire room as he reinforced his love and our responsibility to the Black community, “This is our Family and we got to come together.” And this is what Taste of Soul and StarQuest Singing Competition is all about, selecting amazing talent to share their gift of song with the world.