Jess Gudgell wins Orcas Idol Junior

Jess Gudgell, performing during this year
Jess Gudgell, performing during this year's contest.
— image credit: Martin Taylor photo

All three Orcas Idol Junior judges – Gene Nery, Terry Anderson, and Grace McCune – were enthusiastic about the musical talent of the 11 girls who took the stage to sing for a packed house at the Orcas Island Grange last Saturday afternoon.

But, it was first-time Idol Junior competitor Jess Gudgell’s rendition of “Our Song” that had the judges’ ultimate approval. She was crowned and sashed Orcas Idol Junior in the 4th annual showcase of young talent.

“I chose ‘Our Song,’ because I knew it well and liked the artist,” Gudgell said. “I was really surprised to win. I thought Marissa, Julia, Alecia and Tamara all did a really good job.”

Gudgell, who thinks she might like to be a teacher when she grows up, will perform her song at the Orcas Idol Competition on Feb. 7 at the Orcas Center, in addition to having key lines in the group song.

Once again this year, all the competitors were girls, despite the changing of the competition name from the more feminine name “Idolette” to the gender neutral “Idol Junior.”

“In all the years we have never had any boys sign up,” said Donna Laslo, event organizer. “I think the name Idolette and the big pink banner turned them off. This year, I changed the name and made the banner blue. I don’t think we have shaken that image yet, but we did have one boy sign up this year. Even though, for whatever reason, he did not show up on Saturday to participate.”

The competition started at 3 p.m., with the talented group of Orcas Island singers in grades five through eight performing their favorite songs.

Lindsay Lancaster sang “Every Time We Touch,” Alecia Susol performed “Love Story,” Emy and Lisa Carter did an a cappella duet of “You Then Me,” Mikaela Hansen sang “Honey Honey,” Tamara Klein performed “The Little Things,” Chloe Hamilton sang “Love Song,” Morgan Sabine chose “Big Yellow Taxi,” Marissa Veldman sang “Change,” Annie Ryder preformed “With a Little Help From My Friends,” and Julia Bailey ended the show with “Must Have Done Something Right.”

The judges and many in the audience were impressed by the duet performed by the Carter twins.

“The Carter twins had a difficult number to perform,” said Anderson, who has been a judge all four years. “What they did was not easy to do musically, but they did it well. I was also impressed with how much Julia Bailey has matured musically. She came out completely confident.”

The judges were chosen, according to Moriah Armstrong, “because they are well-known and talented performers, who understand about performing in public, and love children.” They evaluated each of the performers for both Orcas Junior and the auditions later that evening for Orcas Idol on the same criteria.

Each judge assigns a numerical rating to each contestant for technical ability, degree of song difficulty, staying in key, remembering lyrics, stage presence, passion of their performance, overall confidence, and preparedness.

All the Orcas Idol Junior contestants will be preforming the song, “Lean on Me,” at the Orcas Center when the adult performers take the stage at 6:30 p.m.

Later Saturday evening, the judges choose the eight performances that will be part of the adult program. They are: Susan Weiss’s a cappella performance of “Adelaide’s Lament,” Pamela Wright singing “Summertime,” Stephan Baker’s rendition of “Wonder Wall,” Jason and Ariana Dean’s duet of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Conrad Wroebel singing the “Oogie Boogie’s Song” from the movie Nightmare Before Christmas, Yuuko Cunningham singing an unknown song, Pamela Evans’s a cappella performance of “In My Life” and Margie Doyle singing “Memory.”

Orcas Idol Season 4 showcases local talent singing songs in three genres: pop/rock, jazz/standard/Broadway, and country/folk with the winner receiving a cash prize of $200 and a professional recording session.

“The regular tickets have not gone on sale yet and we have already sold 100 tickets,” Laslo said. “There are another 100 tickets available but people should get their tickets early. It gets sold out every year.”

Tickets for Orcas Idol Season 4 are available at Radio Shack and Darvill’s Book Store. The proceeds benefit Orcas Island Prevention Partnership, which brings together nine community organizations committed to prevention and promoting a safe and healthy community free of substance abuse.

For more information about OIPP, go to

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