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Ryan Johnson, Published March 17 2014

Stars in their eyes: 10 finalists to square off Saturday in Fargo Star singing competition

FARGO – After thousands of online votes and more than 60 audition videos, 10 finalists are ready to sing their hearts out this weekend for a shot at glory in The Forum’s annual Fargo Star singing competition.

The finalists are a diverse group, with five women and five men ages 19 to 49 hailing from communities throughout the region.

The area’s best crooners and divas will take the stage at The Venue at The Hub this Saturday to sing the song of their choice with live backing band Post Traumatic Funk Syndrome, hoping their performance will win the crowd’s vote – and crown them the 2014 Fargo Star.

But before the finals, get to know the 10 hopeful singers – and their strategies for victory – a little better.

Samantha Culliton

Age: 24

Hometown: Raleigh, N.D.

What she’ll be singing: “In Your Arms,” an original song of “hope and faith” that she wrote.

The accountant for the Anne Carlsen Center in Jamestown, N.D., auditioned for Fargo Star for the first time this year, and said her goal is to give the finals “all that I have” as she vies for victory.

“I have a very hard work ethic, and I want to leave the competition knowing that I tried my very best,” she said.

If she could eat only one food for the rest of her life: Broccoli. “I pretty much have it at every meal,” she said.

Taylor Hought

Age: 19

Hometown: Foxhome, Minn.

What she’ll be singing: “Photograph,” a song by her mom’s favorite ’80s rock band, Def Leppard. “I always remember singing that as a kid,” she said.

Hought sang another ’80s classic, Scandal’s “The Warrior,” when she placed third in last year’s Fargo Star finals.

“My parents are taking a few party buses and bringing up all of our family, and I do have a lot of family and friends, so hopefully this year I’ll be able to pull through,” she said.

The Minnesota State University Moorhead freshman is majoring in musical theater and minoring in communication studies and dance.

Who she’d most like to open for: Imagine Dragons, a band Hought said seems like a “really fun, upbeat” group.

Zach Johnson

Age: 20

Hometown: Wendell, Minn.

What he’ll be singing: “Tomorrow” by Chris Young, a song he said is “very relatable” for many.

“A lot of people get into relationships where you’re no good for each other but you want to leave, but you always know that tomorrow’s probably going to be the day that I’m going to, but I don’t really want to,” he said.

It’s the first time the Target employee has auditioned for Fargo Star, and he plans to stick to his “country roots” and try to put on a good show at the finals.

What would his power be if he was a superhero for a day: The ability to fly. “Being able to fly would be awesome, and I could save a lot of money on airfare,” he said.

Kennedy Kiser

Age: 19

Hometown: Fargo

What she’ll be singing: “Many the Miles” by Sara Bareilles, a song she picked because “I love Sara Bareilles for anything that she does.”

Kiser auditioned for Fargo Star in 2012, taking third place at the finals.

“My strategy for winning this year’s Fargo Star would just be to have fun and be more comfortable up on the stage,” she said.

She has a busy schedule these days, majoring in jazz and commercial music at MSUM while coaching at American Gold Gymnastics and working part time at a Holiday convenience store.

Who she’d most like to open for: Adele. “Her music’s so filled with soul,” she said.

Mark J. Lindquist

Age: 32

Hometown: Ortonville, Minn.

What he’ll be singing: “Mack the Knife” by Bobby Darin.

“I love Bobby Darin’s music, and certainly he’s been a big influence,” he said.

For his first time competing in Fargo Star, he wants to give the crowd a good show.

“I think that the best that I do is the crooner style,” he said. “Some people like that music, and some people don’t. But I feel like that’s the best I can give, so I can go home at night realizing or knowing that I did the best I could.”

Lindquist owns motivational speaking firm Breath is Limited, giving keynote speeches across the country.

If he could eat only one food for the rest of his life: Rice, he joked, “because I’m Asian. We like that.”

Maddie Schultz

Age: 19

Hometown: Fargo

What she’ll be singing: “New York State of Mind,” a Billy Joel classic that has been covered by the likes of Barbra Streisand and the cast of “Glee.”

“I’m really a big fan of Billy Joel and Barbra Streisand, and I kind of like ‘Glee,’ too,” she said.

The business administration student at MSUM auditioned for Fargo Star for the first time this year, and said the key to winning will be getting enough support in the crowd.

“I’m trying to invite all my friends and family,” she said.

What would her power be if she was a superhero for a day: Time travel, she said, “so I can go back and fix things or go to the future and see what should be fixed in the present.”

Chris Schuster

Age: 23

Hometown: Fargo

What he’ll be singing: Schuster hadn’t finalized his plans by the time of his interview, but said he’d likely pick a Stevie Wonder song.

“One of my greatest influences vocally is Stevie Wonder,” he said.

He previously considered trying out for Fargo Star, but submitted an audition video for the first time this year.

“I obviously want to pick a song that will show my vocal range and ability, but also I just hope to connect to the audience in a special way,” he said.

Schuster is a music teacher at Park Christian School in Moorhead.

Who he’d most like to open for: Stevie Wonder. “It’s just his sound and his flavor,” he said. “He just incorporates music from all over the world.”

Benny Stevermer

Age: 49

Hometown: Granite Falls, Minn.

What he’ll be singing: Bobby Darin’s “Clementine,” a song he said boasts “a fair amount” of brass backing that makes it a good fit with Post Traumatic Funk Syndrome at the finals.

The sales associate at Country Greenery in Moorhead auditioned for the first time this year, and said he feels like the “wild card” because of his age – he’s 30 years older than the youngest contestants.

But he has a strategy that could help him Saturday.

“It’s just completely a recital and to deliver this song that I’ve worked on for quite a while,” he said.

If he could only eat one food for the rest of his life: Pizza. “I would like to eat pizza all the time,” he said.

Jamie Thompson

Age: 32

Hometown: West Fargo

What he’ll be singing: “Vultures” by John Mayer, a song he said will showcase his guitar playing and vocal talents during the finals.

The Web developer at Flint Communications auditioned with his rendition of Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition,” a song he said fit his vocal range well.

Thompson is a first-time Fargo Star contestant.

“My strategy to win Fargo Star is to try and bring high energy, and just have fun,” he said.

What would his power be if he was a superhero for a day: Flight. “I just think that would be an amazing experience,” he said.

Jenna Wawers

Age: 19

Hometown: Fargo

What she’ll be singing: “You Know I’m No Good” by Amy Winehouse.

“I’m really excited to be singing one of her songs on a stage finally,” she said. “I’ve always just kind of been singing it to myself in the basement.”

Now a Concordia College student, Wawers will transfer to MSUM in the fall to pursue a music industry degree.

She first auditioned for Fargo Star last year, making it to the finals. This time around, she wants to “have a lot of fun” on stage.

“It’s kind of an upbeat song, and I can kind of just dance to it and jam,” she said. “I think when you don’t focus on winning, that’s when you do your best.”

If she could eat only one food for the rest of her life: Doughnuts, “no question.”

If You Go

WHAT: Fargo Star finals, featuring a guest performance by former “American Idol” contestant Andrina Brogden

WHEN: 6 p.m. Saturday; doors open at 5

WHERE: The Venue at The Hub, 2525 Ninth Ave. S., Fargo

INFO: General admission is $10, available only at the door

TICKETS: To see the finalists’ audition videos, visit http://fargostar.areavoices.com.

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