Bellingham Idol is a singing competition held every Wednesday at 7 p.m. at The Wild Buffalo downtown. The competition lasts three months and the first seven weeks are auditions. Up to ten contestants audition each week in front of a panel of judges and an audience comprised of local community members. The top few contestants advance to the quarterfinals. The last day to audition is June 7, and spots are still open.
Quarterfinals will be held from June 14-21, semifinals from July 12-19 and four contestants will compete in the finale on July 26.
Bellingham City Council member Kristina Michele Martens created Bellingham Idol as a way to bring people together and meet friends through a fun community event. The competition had two full seasons in 2018 and 2019 and is back this year. There is no entry fee to compete or spectate, but you have to be 21+ to enter.
“One of the big reasons I love this competition so much is because the talent in this community is insane,” Michele Martens said. “My love of this community drives it. Something like this helps bring us together. This competition could not be more pure at heart.”
There are three judges who provide commentary and feedback, but contestants advance based on crowd applause. An applause meter is used to measure the decibel level after a contestant performs.
“This is a community event for the community, I think they should decide,” Michele Martens said.
The winner will receive $2,500 and a chance to become a local Bellingham celebrity, or “Bellebrity” as Michele Martens calls them. Prizes for second through fourth place will also be given, but they have not been announced.
AJ Highet found Bellingham Idol through his karaoke group on Facebook. He has no formal singing background but found the courage to sing karaoke a couple of years ago and hasn't stopped.
On May 3, Highet auditioned with one of his go-to karaoke songs, “Fly Me to the Moon” by Frank Sinatra.
“Nobody expects anything from karaoke, so if I hit some flat notes it’s not the end of the world,” Highet said. “[Bellingham Idol] was more nerve-wracking since people are there to compete and you want to move on.”
Highet said his childhood dream was to sing but never had the opportunity. Karaoke has let him practice and improve and he’s competing to grow his skills as a musician.
Another contestant, Christine Dubois, has been singing all her life. She started in church when she was little and continued in choirs and talent shows throughout high school. She also learned about Bellingham Idol through Facebook.
“I found my old yearbook and everybody signed it like, ‘Keep singing Christine’ and it made me sad I didn’t really do that. The next day I saw an ad on Facebook and it was like a sign,” Dubois said.
Martens opens the show by singing to lighten the mood and warm up the crowd. Dubois said it helped ease her nerves since she was the first to audition.
Highet and Dubois competed with three other contestants and all five advanced to the quarterfinals.
Martens said people shouldn’t turn away from auditioning based on fear of not getting enough applause or nerves. The crowd is active throughout everyone's auditions.
Jami Templeton started teaching voice lessons in 2004. She has experience teaching a wide variety of music genres and coaching students through auditions. She said practicing in front of a mirror and recording yourself are good ways to see how you perform.
“When you get on stage, it’s gonna be a new environment. Take a few deep breaths and trust yourself,” Templeton said. “Do the best you can do and have fun, leave the performance on that stage.”
There are still spots open for auditions. The audition song cannot be longer than 2.5 minutes and auditioners have to supply the backing track no later than 6 p.m. on the Monday before their audition. Updates are available on the competition on Facebook and Instagram.
Ciarra Shaffer (she/her) is a city life reporter for The Front. She is a junior majoring in the public relations track of the journalism department. In her free time, Ciarra enjoys being outside and going to concerts. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org