Singer Alkeesha Durrette likes the sounds of gospel artists Yolanda Adams, Donald Lawrence and Augustan Claude Harris for inspiration, but her style is her own.
"I'm an original. I haven't heard anybody sing like me yet. That is what I have been told, and that is why I really need to be heard," said Ms. Durrette, an Appling choir director whose vocal talents won her a trip to Barbados in May.
The contest was sponsored by Atlanta-based Sheridan Gospel Network. The first rung of the competition was through WKZK-AM (1600) in the spring. Her win there took her to Jacksonville, Fla., where she beat out about a dozen other singers for the top prize, the trip to Barbados Gospelfest.
She got to perform before thousands of people at what was billed as "the biggest praise party in Barbados," said Ms. Durrette, who also did a lot of karaoke there for fun.
Besides karaoke, singing at weddings around Augusta and her work at First Mount Carmel Baptist Church in Appling, she performed for five years with a female quintet, Blessed, writing some of the group's music, Ms. Durrette said. Blessed celebrated its sixth anniversary June 26 at the church.
"Anytime I sing, I like to minister, to lift somebody's burden and help somebody go a little further. That is my encouragement. That is what makes me sing. That gives me all the joy," said Ms. Durrette, who wants to make gospel singing a career and is working on a CD.
Her mother, Louise Durrette, has encouraged her. She sang with the Gospel Lyrics quartet, which traveled with the Swanee Quintet.
"My mother is a singer. My daddy couldn't hold a note if it was taped to his back (but) he tried all the time," Ms. Durrette said with a laugh.
For more information on the Barbados Gospelfest, see its Web site, www.barbadosgospelfest.com/photos.aspx.
Reach Virginia Norton at (706) 823-3336 or firstname.lastname@example.org.