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Ryan Johnson, Published January 24 2014

Fargo’s first ‘Star’: 7 years later, Fargo Star winner still passionate about singing

FARGO – A lot has changed since Kallie Hensrud was crowned The Forum’s first-ever Fargo Star winner in 2007.

Then 15 and a sophomore at Moorhead High School, Kallie Frost wowed the judges of the singing competition with her rendition of ABBA’s “Mamma Mia.” Voters selected her as the winner of a day in a recording studio to produce a demo CD, a trip to “American Idol” auditions and a healthy dose of bragging rights.

Now 22 and with a different last name since marrying her husband, Thomas, in 2012, Hensrud’s tastes have changed. If she were to take the stage for Fargo Star again, she said she’d probably pick Mumford and Sons’ “I Will Wait” to compete against F-M’s finest singers.

But even after all these years and graduating from Minnesota State University Moorhead last spring with a degree in mass communications, she hasn’t lost her love for performing, and said Fargo Star helped her know she was on the right track.

“It really affirmed my love for singing and gave me the confidence to do more with that, even if I didn’t really know what I was doing because I was 15,” she said. “Now, I feel like I have an idea of what sound I like.”

The eighth annual Fargo Star competition is once again underway, with 10 finalists as selected by online voters over the next four weeks set to perform before a live audience with backing band Post Traumatic Funk Syndrome on March 22 at The Venue at the Hub.

This year’s contestants should follow a simple piece of advice, Hensrud said – make the performance fun for the audience.

“I got them to clap along,” she said. “You want to be authentic, but you also do want to get them involved because then they’ll notice you beyond whatever song you chose. Confidence, or lack of confidence, will shine through.”

New opportunities

There’s one part of Hensrud’s 2007 Fargo Star victory that she doesn’t like talking about – a trip to South Carolina to audition for “American Idol” that didn’t get her a spot on the popular national competition.

“But afterwards, I got to sing the national anthem at a Minnesota Twins game and at Hockey Day Minnesota in Moorhead, so these other opportunities popped up as a result of me being successful at Fargo Star,” she said.

Her talented vocal cords also gave her another kind of opportunity – meeting the man she would eventually marry.

Hensrud was asked about five years ago to join up with local musicians to serve as a worship band at Triumph Lutheran Brethren Church in West Fargo, but at first worried she wouldn’t fit with the band’s sound.

“When they first asked me to sing with them, I was like, ‘No way, that sounds so dorky. I’m not going to sing bluegrass,’ ” she said.

But she joined anyway, performing with the group that includes her husband on the drums, and she grew to appreciate the folky bluegrass style that the musicians still perform at church and around town from time to time under the band name Pick It Up Pilgrim.

When she won Fargo Star, she used her day in a recording studio to produce a demo CD with her dad using some pre-recorded tracks on a keyboard – “cool, but not very professional,” she said.

If she had that chance again, Hensrud said she’d instead record with her full band, and would be more knowledgeable about how to arrange the vocal harmonies and instrumentation to better fit the sound that she now appreciates compared to the pop sensibilities she had at 15.

For now, she’s working full time at Scheels as a receptionist, and said she’d like to land a local public relations position someday.

Still, Hensrud said it would be hard to pass up a chance to pursue music as a career, and not just a hobby confined to her free time, should that opportunity ever arise.

“It sounds really cliché, but when I’m on the stage is probably when I feel most comfortable with myself,” she said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Ryan Johnson at (701) 241-5587

Voting starts today

We’ve divided our 2014 Fargo Star contestants into three random groups for voting over the next four weeks. Each week, the top two automatically move on to the finals.

Today through noon Friday, you can vote for your Round 1 favorites.

The second group’s videos go online Feb. 3, and the third round starts Feb. 10.

For the fourth week, we open voting for all of the remaining videos, with the top four moving on to the finals.

Ten singers take the stage March 22 with Post Traumatic Funk Syndrome before a live audience at The Venue, where we’ll hear final performances and name the 2013 Fargo Star.

Visit http://FargoStar.Areavoices.com today and all month to watch the videos and vote.