Sing Off Brownlee

2019 Derby Sing Off winner and “American Idol” contestant Makayla Brownlee will be returning as a judge for this year’s competition.

Birthed out of last year’s 150th birthday celebration for the city of Derby and held in conjunction with the Chamber of Commerce’s Chili Cook-Off, the Derby Sing Off will have a little different look this year as the competition is going solo.

Striking out on its own in year two, the Derby Sing Off (hosted by the Derby Recreation Commission) will hold auditions from 4-7 p.m. Sept. 16 and 1-4 p.m. Sept. 26 at The Cove in the Hubbard Arts Center. A total of 10 finalists will be selected from among that pool, with those individuals then getting the chance to perform live in the finals at 6 p.m. Nov. 7 at The Gallery in the Hubbard Arts Center.

Last year, the Sing Off was held at The Venue in Madison Avenue Central Park (the site of the chili cook-off), with a crowd of around 100 on hand for the finals. While The Gallery features about as much space, DRC Program Coordinator Ashlynn Godown noted part of the reason behind the location change was to show off the new amenities the DRC can offer to the community.

“I think it just really highlights our Hubbard Arts Center and the range of everything that we’re trying to do inside of there, introducing The Cove sound studio to the community and using our big, new Gallery room – which is also available for rentals; it kind of shows that off a little bit,” Godown said. “It’ll just kind of get people into the arts center that could be interested in it.”

Particularly, though contestants will still be able to submit 60-second audition videos via Dropbox, Godown said she is hopeful all potential finalists will take advantage of the opportunity to audition in The Cove – given the professional equipment and tools available.

“Hopefully everybody will choose the Cove option. That way it’ll be completely the same across the board,” Godown said. “It can be acoustic. They can bring their instrument with them. They can bring an instrumental background. It’s pretty open to how they want the format to be, but we are hoping to get everyone in The Cove for those auditions.”

Deadline to register for auditions is Sept. 21, with a $30 fee prior to Sept. 14 and $40 after that, and auditions are open to contestants of all ages – which last year included individuals from 12 to 84.

While auditions will be scored by an anonymous panel to select the 10 finalists, three judges will be on hand to critique the live performances – including a very familiar face for anyone who attended last year’s contest.

“Something cool is that we actually are bringing back Makayla (Brownlee, 2019 Derby Sing Off winner) as a judge this year,” Godown said. “She did finish top 40 in ‘American Idol.’ We felt that she would be a really great addition to that.”

Mayor Randy White and Charles Turley will round out the judging panel for the finals, where all 10 finalists will perform at least one song and the top three will be brought back to sing a second selection.

On top of trying to highlight the new facilities available in the community, Godown said the DRC is going “all out” to decorate The Gallery for this year’s Sing Off event. COVID-19 is throwing a wrench into what all the DRC can do for year two, but it is continuing to adapt and Godown is optimistic the event will be even bigger than year one.

“It seemed like everybody was really excited about it,” Godown said. “I’m really hoping and expecting more auditions than 17 this year. Honestly, it wasn’t even specific to the Derby community … so hopefully it can be a larger-scale event and keep growing.”

First place in the 2020 Derby Sing Off will receive a $300 cash prize, while second will earn $150 and third place will get a prize pack. For more information on the contest contact Godown at 316-788-3781.