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Windsong looks for ‘Little Rock Star’ 

Talented vocalists from Arkansas ages 15 to 35 will have a chance to be a “star,” and it won’t be an all-or-nothing premise like winning “American Idol” or “Nashville Star.”

The Windsong Performing Arts Center will begin taking applications beginning April 23 through May 5 for its “Little Rock Star” contest. When the entries are whittled down to a working 100, the public can come out in June to see the competition.

While designed somewhat like “Idol” or “Nashville Star,” there are significant differences, says Eric Chesher, the Windsong director of promotions.

Everyone who makes the final 20 of “Little Rock Star” will get a guaranteed one-year recording/artist development contract. The top 10 will get a guaranteed two-year contract for recording and development. The winner gets a three-year deal with a music video that, Chesher says, will be seen statewide.

“We’re a little different at the Windsong studios in that we’re an empty studio that is trying to fill it with talent,” Chesher said of the facility, which includes the 314-seat Pace Concert Hall.

Already, the Windsong has contacted colleges and high schools about the contest. Chesher says expectations are that 3,000 people could enter. He’s currently working on TV deals with a couple of area networks to show the auditions and five-week “countdown” challenge contest, plus showing the final live.

The only risk is a $95 registration fee, which Chesher said is being charged to limit the number of folks who would enter just on a lark. “This is a serious search,” he said. “We’re not looking for people who would look good on a TV show. We’re looking for real talent. You don’t have to be a character.”

When a major label such as Capitol Records signs a talent, the act is farmed out to one of the corporation’s minor labels for development, Chesher said. The act doesn’t have to pay for recording, but few artists make it past their first album, and studios are certain to get their money back they invested up front, and then some, if an artist continues to record.

In “Little Rock Star,” everybody from the top 20 on down will enjoy recording and development free of charge. “With the winner getting a three-year commitment from us, that’s something that’s never really been done before … Our goal is to have a full stable of talent that is truly developed, trained, and ready for the major labels,” he said.

Some on the young end of the age spectrum may display the raw talent but need vocal or piano training, and thus not advance to the final 20. “We want to be able to provide that [training] in the form of scholarships,” Chesher said. “A lot will depend on the actual response this first go-round.”

Chesher lives in Franklin, Tenn., with an office in Nashville as well as Little Rock. He has worked with Becky and Steve Witkowski, the owners of Windsong, for six years. “Doing the things we want to do with the studio, it helps to have a presence in Nashville and an office in Little Rock, too,” Chesher said. “With it being five hours away, it’s not a problem to travel between the two cities. It’s about to kill me, but it’s working out well.”

For information on registering for “Little Rock Star,” call 753-8694.

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