Country Idol finalists ready for biggest audience yet

2014-06-20T02:30:00Z 2014-06-20T09:43:04Z Country Idol finalists ready for biggest audience yetStory By JACI WEBB Photos By LLOYD BLUNK jwebb@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

They’ve got a twang in their voice and a song ready to perform for one of the biggest crowds in Montana this summer.

Five contestants will sing on Sunday, June 29, vying for the chance to be the first “Country Idol” in a contest co-presented by the Billings Symphony Orchestra & Chorale and The Billings Gazette. It’s all part of the BSO’s Symphony in the Park show at Pioneer Park. The BSO portion of the concert begins at 7 p.m.

The finalists were selected through YouTube submissions. Judges selected three Wyoming musicians, including Doug Balmain from Laramie, Jill Wright from Buffalo, and Amyntas Hinckley from Cowley, and two Montana women, Désja Eagle Tail, of Crow Agency and Ellen Moak, of Billings.

All five recorded music videos in The Gazette’s Studio Enjoy. The videos will be posted online at www.billingsgazette.com at the conclusion of the June 29 concert. Voting will be open for one week and the contestants with the most online votes will be featured at the “Gone Country” BSO concert in March 2015.

The contest opens a new level of audience participation for the BSO. Director Anne Harrigan was pleased with the quality of the contestants and excited to see who is best able to win over the audience.

Performing in front of the expected crowd of 10,000 people on June 29 should put the contestants’ stage presence to the test.

Balmain’s music, whether expressed as alt-country, rock, red dirt, folk, or blues, is grounded in real life and personal experience.

“My main focus is creating music that serves each individual song as its own, unique entity and helps to tell its story in the most effective way possible. That is the heart of Americana music. Regardless of the genre you take up, Americana music is about storytelling; it’s music that speaks of life, love, struggles, triumphs — life the way it is,” Balmain said.

Wright grew up in the Big Horn Basin, singing and performing whenever she had the opportunity. In high school she was invited to tour with the Wyoming Ambassadors of Music and had the opportunity to sing with chorales throughout Europe. While attending the University of Wyoming she was a member of the Centennial Singers, a singing, acting, and dancing touring group. Wright is married with four children.

Eagle Tail is a singer/songwriter from the Crow Reservation. As a regionally acclaimed vocalist, she has been making her mark in the music scene throughout the Northwest with her soulful voice and dynamic performance style.

Eagle Tail has performed in concerts benefiting local charities while working on her music business major at Montana State University Billings. She sings anything from jazz to soul to country and is working to develop her own style with her original music. She has recorded a CD of cover songs and plans to record a new album later this year.

Moak graduated from Rocky Mountain College with a degree in vocal performance. She is lead singer in the rock band, Ellen and the Old School, performing with her dad, Mark, on drums. They are booked to play the St. John’s Summer Concert Series in July.

Hinckley says she’s “a small town girl from Wyoming who has been singing for people ever since she discovered her natural tone and vibrato at the age of 12.” She is a songwriter and a photographer who looks to her music to express her passion and wonder.

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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