Talent Quest National Karaoke Contest

A generic karaoke story of a couple of decades ago oft times includes a group of friends, some alcohol, and a dare. After getting well-oiled, this troupe of revelers wanders into a bar that just happens to be featuring karaoke. Mysteriously, one of the compadres’ names appears on the list of singers—the victim of a conspiracy. After some prodding by his “friends”, the target takes up the dare to belt out his favorite Toby Keith song.

The expectation and motivation at work, of course, is to completely embarrass the shower singer in front of complete strangers. But something else happens altogether. The guy doesn’t suck. In fact, he sounds pretty darn good. It might be the “juice” dropping his inhibitions, but as the song evolves it is talent on display and talent that gives courage. The joke backfires and becomes something akin to admiration. Why isn’t our buddy Roger the Roofer, Roger the Country Star?

This scenario was more prevalent in the early days of karaoke when it was more novelty than staple. Over the decades between then and now, karaoke singers have become more and more polished and less and less a guy springing out of a juiced up gaggle. Sure, today’s karaoke singers enjoy equipment that has improved dramatically over the years, often to the point of rivaling professional recording studios, but there is more at work here than electronics. There is a culture of karaoke with proponents who can really, really sing—and that means on the “American Idol” level.

If you go into any karaoke bar today there is still the tone deaf, off-key mistake, but more likely there is the group of singers who sound like rock stars…or country stars…or R&B stars. In fact, these singers are so good, a contest to sort them out was not only a natural, but a necessity.

Enter the “Talent Quest National Karaoke Contest” held at the Tropicana Laughlin each year for the past several. While the event uses the name “National” in its title, it is actually an international contest seeing participants from all over trying to win part of the $25,800 in cash and prizes and a possible recording contract. The actual start of the competition was on Mon, Sept 12, with the first of the preliminary rounds. But things heat up as the weeding of competitors continues, Wed, Sept 14, through the finals on Sat, Sept 17.

The contestants…

The contestants in the Talent Quest National Karaoke Contest come from far and wide. The finalists in last year’s event came from New Jersey, Utah, Oklahoma, Hawaii, Idaho, Florida…well, from all over, including Canada.

How’d they get here?

Well, there were three methods of entry into the National Finals:

Enter through contest venues;


•Golden Ticket via Wurrly app

While the contestants have already been selected for this year’s event, the most popular method was the first, that is, winning contests at venues throughout the land. There was (and is) a list of venues participating in the qualifying contests available by going to talentquest.org, so if you’re interested in signing up for next year’s competition go to the website in the following months for info on next year’s qualifying venues.

The second method of qualifying was through self-sponsorship—that is, you paid a $475 fee and received entry into the contest plus seven night stay at the Tropicana. Again, go to the Talent Quest site for next year’s information.

The third method was a contest held in April-July via a Wurrly app you could download from the official Talent Quest site. Check out his site early next year to see about getting in that way for 2017.

The format…

The competition is divided into separate male and female divisions in three main categories: Pop/Rock; Country; and Masters (ages 50+). There is also a Duets category with no separate male and female divisions.

Each contestant can be entered in more than one category. Each category except Duets offers a first place prize of $2,500 plus trophy; 2nd place of $1,000 plus trophy; 3rd place of $500 plus trophy; 4th, $200 plus trophy; 5th, $100 plus trophy. A male and female overall winner is selected from the winners of all the categories who receive additional prizes. Duets prize structure is based on number of entrants with an in-house entry fee for this category of $25.

There is also an overall “Performer/Entertainer of the Year Award” as selected by votes cast from other contestants and audiences during the week of competition. The prize package for this award is a trophy and Daywind Recording Studio time in Nashville (a $2,365 value).

A special “Talent Quest Venue of the Year Award” is given to the venue or host sending the best overall contestants to the nationals.

How are they judged…

The judges for Talent Quest come from many different aspects of the arts and entertainment world. There are former vocal coaches, singers, songwriters are recording studio executives. They are all professionals and all know what sells. They will be judging each contestant in three categories:

Vocal performance—intonation and pitch, strength and range of voice; how accurately the singer harmonizes with the music; the use of phrasing, diction and articulation; mic control (is the microphone your friend or enemy, that is, do you control it to eliminate distortion and regulate your vocal volume or do you let it ruin your set); how well the performer stays in tempo; breath control (proper duration of the notes);

Stage presence—facial expression and body gestures; confidence and relaxation on stage; command of the audience; utilizing the stage during the performance; and

Appearance—whether the performer’s outfit matches the song; professional look and style; is there a touch that elevates a contestant’s outfit from others.

Last year’s 1st place winners were:

Female MastersPam Del Franco, Edison, New Jersey;

Female CountryMikalene Ipson, St. George, Utah;

Female Pop/RockJenny Rader, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Male MastersAnthony Parker, Kerns, Utah;

Male CountryGordon Wilson, Ammon, Idaho;

Male Pop/RockMack Esteban, Honolulu, Hawaii;

DuetPam Del Franco and Ally Wilcox;

Venue of the YearBonneville Brewery in West Jordan, Utah;

A word from our sponsors…

Chaparral Media Productions of New Mexico will be making DVDs of all contestants which will be ready for purchase the same day of the performances. Sponsors include Daywind Recording Studio of Nashville, Tennessee; VocoPro of California; karaokecloud; Superior Vocal Health; RSQ; All-Star Karaoke; Karaoke Warehouse.

Possible national TV time…

In a new development, Talent Quest is in the process of putting together a short pilot on the entire karaoke scene and their contests and finals to pitch as a reality show to one of the major networks for next season. The working title is “It’s So Not Karaoke” with an emphasis on the quality of singers involved in today’s karaoke, and more specifically, Talent Quest. They will be filming some interviews at the Tropicana event for the pilot so you may find yourself on a bigger stage than the one at the Pavilion Theater.


Pavilion Showroom

Wed, Sept. 14Pop/Rock Male Round 2 (10 a.m.); Masters Male Round 2 (2 p.m.); Country Male Round 2 (6 p.m.); Duets Round 1-second set of 10 (10 p.m.);

Thurs, Sept. 15Pop/Rock Female Round 2 (10 a.m.); Masters Female Round 2 (2 p.m.); Country Female (6 p.m.); Duets Round 2-first set of 10 (10 p.m.);

Fri, Sept 16Quarter Finals—Top 20 in each category:  Masters Male (10 a.m.); Masters Female (noon); Country Male (2 p.m.); Country Female (4 p.m.); Pop/Rock Male (6 p.m.); Pop/Rock Female (8 p.m.); Duets Round 2-second set of 10 (10 p.m.);

Sat, Sept 17Semi Finals—Top 10 in each category: Masters Male (10 a.m.); Masters Female (11 a.m.); Country Male (noon); Country Female (1 p.m.); Pop/Rock Male (2 p.m.); Pop/Rock Female (3 p.m.)

National Finals (7 p.m.)

Cost to watch…

There is no charge to attend the preliminary and semi-final rounds in the Pavilion. There is a $12 plus taxes and fees admission for the Finals (7 p.m.) with tickets available at the Trop Box Office. Tickets will not be available at the Pavilion door.

Trop Lounge

In addition to the competition rounds going on in the Pavilion Theater, the Trop Lounge just off the main casino floor will be home to open mic karaoke throughout the run of the Talent Quest as follows:

Wed, Fri, Sept 14, 16—open mic (4:30 p.m.-1 a.m.);

•Thurs, Sept 15—open mic (9 p.m.-1 a.m.).

For complete information on the Talent Quest National Karaoke Contest, see talentquest.org



Tropicana, Pavilion Theater

Wednesday-Saturday, September 14-17. Preliminary rounds are free, slight fee to view the finals