Smyrna's Got Voice will showcase local singers in three upcoming events, the first of which will be at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 7, at the Smyrna Opera House.

    “American Idol” fans know that making the cut is about more than just singing. It’s also about stage presence. The “it” factor. Carrie Underwood had both. So did Jennifer Hudson, although she didn’t win. And Sanjaya, well, he just had great hair.

    Twelve locals have proven they have whatever “it” is by qualifying for Smyrna’s Got Voice, an “American Idol” inspired competition hosted by the Smyrna Opera House.

    Opera House Director David Keller said the venue’s amateur talent nights have been a success in the past, so they decided to take it a step further and have a juried contest, a la “American Idol.”

    That means the 12 finalists, who range from pre-teen to 40-plus, had to qualify by performing for three judges, including Keller. The upcoming shows — Saturdays, March 7, April 4, and May 2 — will give local audiences a chance to see the contestants perform and again face a live, three-person panel.

    “They’ll be a little more nice than Simon Cowell, but we will have that same kind of dialog,” Keller said.

    Also like “Idol,” audiences will choose the winner from a variety of competitors.

    Casey MacKenzie of Dover, 17, describes her voice as “airy,” and likens her sound to Sarah McLaughlin.

    The soon-to-be freshman at Berklee College of Music did one of the city’s Concerts on The Green in 2008 and performed a New Year’s Eve show for Friends of Folk. Smyrna’s Got Voice will be a departure for her as it will just be MacKenzie and a microphone, and more of an emphasis on performance.

    “I think this competition is going to be a new challenge for me,” she said.

    MacKenzie, like many of her contestants, is unsure of what she’ll be performing for the first round, but she might do something like “Girl, Put Your Records On,” by Corinne Bailey Rae.

    The singers are diverse not only in age, but in style, Keller said, which he sees as an asset.

    “We have some that are jazzy/bluesy, to country, to pop, to even kind of like a Broadway style, so it’s a good mix that way,” he said.

    One thing they have in common is a passion for performance.

    DJ Evins of Magnolia, 15, has been singing since he was in chorus in the fifth grade. It was when he got a standing ovation for a solo from “Beauty and the Beast” in sixth grade that he really started getting invested in singing.

    He enjoys performing country and alternative rock, and listens to a little of everything. For his audition he sang Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me.”

    DJ is looking at Smyrna’s Got Voice as a chance to practice and for exposure.

    “Just to get my voice out there and be heard,” he said.

    Kathy DeLong of Dover is excited about that, too.

    “I’ve always had that desire to perform and entertain,” she said.

    The W.B. Simpson Elementary School fifth-grade teacher said that passion helps her keep students entertained.

    DeLong leads a church choir, was a voice major in college, and has sang many a solo at work, weddings and other events. This is the first time she’ll be competing against fellow singers of all ages and styles, though.

    She’s considering a few show tunes, including “Can’t Help Lovin’ that Man” from “Showboat,” or maybe something from “Funny Girl.”

    Regardless of whether her songs are showstoppers or not, she’s happy to be a part of the contest.

    “I’ve already won because I get to sing on the stage,” she said.

     Email Sarika Jagtiani at

If You Go ...
What: Smyrna’s Got Voice
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturdays, March 7, April 4 and May 2
Where: Smyrna Opera House,  corner of Main and South streets, Smyrna
Admission: $12, $5 for children 12 and younger and students with ID
Information: Call 653-4236, 866-350-7481, or visit www.smyrnaopera