I could see the hurt in her eyes behind her glasses.
Even though she walked away with a prize, it wasn’t the prize she deserved. I knew it down deep and so did most of the audience that had attended the talent show that night.
She is the reason I had being a judge in anything, especially with something so subjective as talent.
In the past, I always did journalism contests at a distance, able to read a story or examine a photograph without having to look the author or photographer in the eye afterwards.
Even in those cases that I later encountered the contestant, I could generally live with the result since I always felt that I had judged fairly.
This was not the case on this night in
. I had marked this girl high, but failed to argue
enough with the other judges as to why she deserved first place instead of the
third place award she ended up with. Bayonne
I’m not sure why I agreed to become one of the judges. One or the organizers asked me during a conversation with someone else, and when a nod is as good as a wink, I said, “Why not.”
And suddenly, I was on the billboard along with a school board candidate, the one time lead guitarist for Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show, and actor, Tammy Blanchard.
After years of trying to wrangle an interview with Blanchard, I finally managed to get a story into our
magazine. But this was a phone interview. The only
other time I had actually seen her in person was during a high school
graduation when she gave out a scholarship to one of the students. Bayonne
So I was a bit disappointed when she had to cancel to attend an audition in
, though we did get a former director in her place. New York
Sitting next to George Cummings of Dr. Hook fame was a history lesson of local music, and a flash back to a time when pop music wasn’t so corporate controlled. He even sang me the dirty lyrics to his band’s biggest hit, “The Cover of the Rolling Stone,” and it was all I could do to keep from laughing when we were supposed to look serious and judge-like.
The acts varied widely, although nearly all of them involved singing. This is likely why the one dance act managed to stand out and get awarded.
The musical acts varied, not only in style, but in era, and this proved somewhat of a problem since all of the judges were of a particular era, and some of the contestants – such as this girl – were two and a half generations later.
She performed one of Adele’s more difficult songs, and struggled through the beginning slightly, only to finally pull it together at the end.
Other acts included Frank Sinatra songs, Elvis songs, Motown songs, and perhaps because the judges were of an age that related best to these many of these acts scored higher over all.
Some of the scheduled acts did not show, and so apparently to give the audience their money’s worth, organizers allowed some acts to go on again.
This only confused the judging, especially in regards to this particular girl – who came back with a rendition of “Over the Rainbow” so powerful, it nearly made me cry.
But some of the judges felt the second performance should not figure in the final judgment and so discounted it – although in one or two other cases, previous performers came back as solo acts and got credit anyway.
The other problem with the younger performers is that they sang along with the professionally released recording, and so some judges could not tell which voice was which, and assumed that the quality they heard best came form the recording and not the performer.
This was not the case with the girl who sang Adele and later Judy Garland songs.
Judging became a confusion of what to include and not, and how to determine tie scores. I just handed in my numbers and went off to find the men’s room while the others figured out who got what.
And I tried desperately not to look around to see that girl for fear I would have to look her in the eye.
But I did see her later and how hurt she looked when the organizers announced that she had won third prize.
It is one of those moments you remember forever because you know she will feel the sting of it long after the event has become insignificant, a sting that may someday derail a potential career, although I hope (mostly for my own sake) it will inspire her to try harder, to spite us.