By Christopher Smith
The end of a romantic relationship, a mother abandoning her kids, and Jesus.
Singers took to the microphone at the Creative Arts Guild’s to sing about these themes and more at the first “Dalton’s Got Talent” held Friday and Saturday nights.
Self-expression is what makes community events like “Dalton’s Got Talent” so important, said Colby Jones, coordinator for the two-night singing contest. More than 200 local residents listened to 23 singers at the 13-year-old and up competition Saturday night. Eddy Davenport won the competition, receiving $500 and a chance to open for the Guild’s In Concert Series on Thursday, April 23.
“Everyone wants to show their talent,” Jones said. “Arts are a big deal. People seem to forget that in America, but the arts let you get away from stuff ... away from school shootings and bad things that are happening in America. They let you become someone totally different. We have had enough bad stuff going on in America recently; we need some way to express ourselves. That’s what the arts do.”
That’s exactly why Peyton Sanford, one of the performers, sang “I Wonder” by Kellie Pickler.
“You see, my mom left for Texas and she’s never been around for me,” Sanford said. “Things weren’t going well for her in Georgia, I guess. I don’t know why she left. But that’s why I am singing. I’m expressing myself from the heart. I sing from my heart. Singing this song has a lot of meaning to me. That’s why I picked it.”
Even though she was “a little nervous,” Sanford took to the microphone in the center of the room.
“I think about how it ain’t fair that you weren’t there to braid my hair like mothers do,” Sanford sang. “You weren’t around to cheer me on; help me dress for my high school prom like mothers do.”
After finishing, the crowd applauded; several stood.
“So many people would rather do local competitions like this than drive to Atlanta and compete in ‘American Idol’,” Jones said. “This is the first year we’ve ever done something like this in Dalton. It’s in trial and error right now, but it’s going pretty well. We sold about 70 or 80 tickets for the first night. We can seat about 250 and tonight we have almost sold out.”
Selling out a singing competition is one way the Creative Arts Guild is growing as a cultural hub.
“Right now, we teach piano, voice, flute and musical theater,” Jones, who is also a musical instructor at the Guild, said. “This competition will help us fund some of that. Also, we’re trying to get a community chorus. Getting the music, the books and the rights for that is a lot of money. As a former choir director, I know how much that stuff can cost, so we wanted to do a fundraiser to help us grow.”
Raymond Southern, another competitor with a background singing in the U.S. Navy, says he hopes Jones continues events like “Dalton’s Got Talent.”
“He’s doing a great job with this,” Southern said. “This event is excellent. I am really, really impressed by what he (Jones) has done. I came out to be part of the community and sing. And I wanted to see all the talent Dalton has. It’s fantastic. I will definitely be coming back next year. I’m always looking for places to sing.”
As should any artists, Jones said, adding that people interested in the arts should “try to get any gig they can.”
“I never say no to a gig. Even if it’s free, I’m there. Exposure, exposure, exposure. That’s my motto.”
Asked what kind of exposure he’s sought, Jones said, “Well for me, I’m auditioning for Pigeon Forge, playing professional piano for ‘The Fantasticks’ at the Walker County Civic Center starting March 8, and this summer I’m playing piano and I’m musical director for the “Great American Trailer Park Musical” at the Dalton Little Theatre. I’m building my resume little by little and loving every bit of it.”
Davenport, who could not be reached Saturday night, will also be building his resume when he opens up for the guild’s Concert Series.
“The Concert Series something we do all year long. It’s once a month, usually on the third Thursday,” Jones said. “Due to scheduling conflicts, we’re doing it on the fourth Thursday of April. The winner will sing at that. They get to open for the show. They worked hard for it so we want them to come back and let the audience love them even more.
“We also usually have classical pieces come in, or a brass band, but my piece is me and one of the judges (John Dee) doing a Broadway review. We want to show that music comes in all kinds of shapes and sizes, not just your Katy Perry.”