Augusta man heading to Denver for American Idol auditions

Bertwane Ellison could be the next Kris Allen.


Mr. Ellison beat out 66 fellow hopefuls to win the title of Augusta Idol on Friday night at the Maxwell Performing Arts Theater at Augusta State University.

As the winner, Mr. Ellison earned a trip to next week’s American Idol auditions in Denver. He will fly to Denver on Monday and try out on Tuesday.

Mr. Allen became the hit singing competition’s eighth champion in May.

“I’m shocked,” said Mr. Ellison, a 20-year-old from Augusta. “I came here last year and didn’t win.”

Contestants began lining up Friday afternoon to compete in the show, which was hosted by TV station WFXG, the Fox affiliate in Augusta.

In the first round, the contestants were given 30 seconds to perform any song of their choice a cappella. After four judges narrowed the field to 10 finalists, they got the chance to perform again for up to three minutes.

Mr. Ellison performed “Can’t Give Up Now” by Mary Mary in the opening round. He went with an old church hymn, “ I Won’t Complain,” to clinch the title.

“I felt it in my heart that I had won” after the first song, Mr. Ellison said. “I was on fire.”

Tutu D’Vyne, a popular entertainer in the Augusta area, was one of the judges who crowned Mr. Ellison as the winner. She said the panel liked his confidence and his stage presence.

“He was able to connect with the audience,” said Ms. D’Vyne. “And you could see that he really loved the music.”

Ashley Morgan Alexander, an 18-year-old from Graniteville, S.C., placed second. Anne Williams, a 25-year-old from Augusta, was third.

There were 100 slots available and those looking for their shot at stardom came early to get their spot in line. The earliest arrivals faced a three-hour wait before they would be allowed in the theater, a five-hour wait before auditions would begin and an eight-hour wait before a winner would be announced.

Lakisha Cain of Augusta was the first in line and planned to sing Beyonce’s Halo for the judges. She said participating in the American Idol experience prompted her to ensure she had a prime spot in line.

“This is a dream come true for me,” she said. “I’m a big fan of the show.”

Kristina Johns, 16, showed up with her mother, Theresa Bee. She said she understood that the wait would be long, but believed the discomfort was minimal in comparison to how she might have felt had she stayed at home.

“When it’s your dream, you just don’t think about it,” said Kristina, who planned to sing Somewhere Over the Rainbow. “I’d rather sit out here than have to wonder what might have happened.”

Jim Askren, who planned to sing Usher’s Nice & Slow, said he’s not trying to become Idol’s next instant star. Instead, he sees the audition process as an opportunity to get noticed.

“I used to be an accomplished salesman,” he said. “But with the way the economy has gone, it’s tough to sell a car, insurance, anything. My dream is to be a writer and performer and I thought this would be a good way to jump start that. I don’t think I’m the one, the next American Idol. I’m just hoping I’ll stand out.”



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