Auditions for the annual “Get Real” annual Christian Singing Competition begin Feb. 6.

Over the past 14 years, this competition has been, for some teens, simply an outlet for fun. For others, it has been a stepping-stone for future music careers.

The competition is open to ages 11 to 19. Contestants will be divided into a junior division (ages 11 to 15) and a senior division (ages 16 to 19). Participants will register onsite. They can come from anywhere to compete, and must choose a song that is in a Christian genre or has a message with faith-based values. For the preliminary round, they are required to sing the song acapella.

Each of the audition nights, a panel of judges will inform participants if they will move onto the semi-final round, which will be held in front of a live audience and a panel of judges at 6 p.m. March 27 at The Outlet at Christ Wesleyan Church in Milton. For this round, contestants can choose to accompany themselves or be accompanied by the house band.

Those who do not move onto the semifinals via tonight’s audition are encouraged to try again at the second audition night on Tuesday.

The three finalists in each division will perform on air for the last round, when the listening audience will vote for the winners. Prizes include CDs, a one-song recording session at 8 Days a Week Studios, of Northumberland, the opportunity to be featured on the “Get Real” radio program, and an invitation to sing at WGRC Day at Knoebel’s Amusement Resort.

According to Dave Jones, host of the “Get Real” program on local Christian radio station WGRC first went on air in November 2006. In 2007, a youth talent competition was established as a way to promote the show. It was immediately well-received, and its popularity continues.

Over the past few years, those trying out for the competition have numbered about 40. The number of contestants moving onto the semi-finals is usually capped at around 20.

No matter what their musical goals might be, Jones is happy to provide this medium.

“We just want to give young people a platform that they can use to sing,” he said.

They have kept in touch with a number of the contestants, some of which are now serving in worship ministries, some in the local music scene and performing public gigs. One contestant, Jones said, moved onto Nashville and is hoping to make it a career.

But Jones said one of the benefits of this competition is that it’s not just about winning, it’s also about the growth the teens can experience in the process.

“Even for the ones who do make it there, we will critique and give pointers,” he said. “For those who don’t make it through, we let them know why, and we invite them back.”

The singers are judged based on the difficulty of song choice, song mechanics, and stage presence.

Randy Fisher will serve his sixth year as a judge this year. He said he looks especially for emotion.

“I want the performance to move me emotionally,” he said. “I look for connection between the artist, the song/lyrics, and the audience. When all those aspects come together, it’s quite a beautiful thing to see.”

While he is serving as a judge, he said he sees his role as more of a mentor.

“We aren’t just there to pick the best one for the competition,” he said, “we are also there to kindly give constructive feedback — to instruct them on how they can better their craft.”

For those who are chosen to move onto the semi-final round, he said they will help them to pick songs and arrangements that will suit them best.

“The greater goal, though,” Fisher said, “is to develop them to effectively reach people with the message of the Gospel, through people.”

Randy and his wife Jade, who will be serving in her third year as a judge for the competition, formed their singing duo, Randy and Jade Fisher, in 2015. In 2016, they toured all 50 states on their “Awesome Love” tour. Over the last few years, the Mount Pleasant Mills couple received three awards from the International Music and Entertainment Association.

“Our goal has always been to use our music as a way to point people to a relationship with God through Jesus Christ,” Fisher said.

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