By Lindsay Carey
This year’s CT Icon singing competition was a year of firsts. The contestants took their performances to a new stage, there was a sing-off for first place and a twelve-year-old girl emerged as the youngest to ever win the competition.
After making it through the audition process, 12 finalists moved on to perform at Lake Compounce and in just four rounds, split between two days, a winner was chosen.
The singing competition, which was previously annually held at the Apple Harvest Festival in Southington, intrigued some of the theme park visitors to attend the show.
Melissa Ericksen-Salmon, who organizes CT Icon, said that the competition’s new venue allowed it to reach a lot of people from different parts of the state.
“The talent was outstanding,” said Ericksen-Salmon.
The competition was so fierce that there was a tie breaker sing-off in the final round for the first time in the six years of CT Icon history.
“The judges try their best to be so detailed so that it could never happen, but it happened anyways,” said Ericksen-Salmon.
Erin Gibney, 15, of Southington and Samantha Dorsi, 12, of North Haven, faced off for first place. Both young women competed in CT Icon last year; however neither had made it to the final four.
The sing-off was an exciting first, though having a winner as young as Dorsi took the cake for Ericksen-Salmon. According to her, it was a breath of fresh air for the competition.
“She took each performance to the next level,” said Ericksen-Salmon about the winner. “She was really pushing the envelope and I think that’s what shined for the judges in the end.”
Dorsi said that CT Icon helped her come out of her shell, which is sometimes difficult for her, even though this wasn’t her first time publically singing.
Dorsi said the competition challenged her to play up her stage presence and really perform, rather than just sing.
For Dorsi, it was both the judges’ accurate advice and the stiff competition that helped her rise to the occasion.
“There was a lot of talent this year,” said Dorsi. “Everyone deserved to win.”
Though the finalists were talented, Dorsi said that the competition is far from cut throat and that there is a sense of camaraderie amongst the contestants.
“We were all genuinely happy when other people performed well,” said Dorsi. “It was such a great experience.”
Gibney said her experience getting turned away last year heightened her nerves.
“I really did not care where I placed,” said Gibney. “Just making it to the top four was such an honor, because I was up against some really amazing people.”
Although Gibney didn’t end up taking home the win, she said that she found the sing-off to be a fun and beneficial learning experience.
“I’ve never been in that situation before, in a tie and being put on the spot to compete,” said Gibney.
As first place winner, Dorsi won $1,000 and two one hour vocal sessions with CT Icon judge David Cavallin of David Cavallin Studios. She will also have the opportunity to perform at the Tipping Chair Tavern in Southington and record a song at a studio.
Gibney also won a one hour session.
The finalists also took home Guitar Center Gift Cards of various amounts.
Dorsi also offered some advice for those who may be considering participating in CT Icon next year.
“Don’t be afraid to try out because it is for all ages,” said Dorsi of the competition. “You could be on the younger side like me or on the older side in your 30s or 40s and still have a chance to touch other people with your gift and possibly even win.”
By Lindsay Carey