Missouri teenagers, who both had small obstacles to overcome, took the top two spots in the 2015 Missouri State Fair Idol competition Sunday on the Budweiser Stage.
Oak Grove High School sophomore Savannah Purkey, 15, placed first in the competition. Purkey participates in band, color guard and track at school. Her smooth voice belted out such classics as Etta James’s “At Last” and Whitney Houston’s “I Have Nothing” during her first set and moved to more contemporary music “Miss Independent” by Kelly Clarkson and “How Can it Be” by Lauren Daigle during the second set.
“As far as singing goes I sing the National Anthem at Columbia at MU games,” she told the audience after her last performance Sunday. “This summer I got my chance to sing my first Royals game, so that was cool.”
Purkey is the daughter of Shannon and Carla Purkey. Her father said Savannah inherited her vocals from her grandfather William Homer Cline, of Warrensburg.
“We’re so excited,” her mother added. “She wanted to try out for American Idol but she was 10 days too young.”
As top finalist in the MSF Idol contest, Purkey received $500 cash and the chance to sing on the Pepsi Grandstand stage on opening night at the 2016 MSF.
“This is great,” Purkey said after her win. “I’m really excited for next year to perform at the Grandstand stage.”
During her first set Purkey’s voice broke, but she remained posed and regained her vocals. She added that she was surprised at her win.
“I was a little worried because everyone is very talented,” she said. “But, if you believe in yourself, you can do anything.”
Purkey said she loves singing and hopes to pursue it in the future.
“Maybe I can sing and travel, because I want to travel,” she added.
After graduating from high school she plans to attend the University of Missouri-Columbia.
Runner-up Cameron Kopp, 19, of Cadet, broke a string on his guitar during his first set, but kept singing as a relative brought another guitar to the stage.
“Can I get a howdy one more time!” Kopp said to the audience with his country drawl. “Hey, I’m glad to be here, I’m having fun. I’ve always said it’s not about the winners it’s about having the fun time of your life. It is hard getting up here, for me being a man and with all these girls with pretty voices. It’s a hard competition. I did my best, and yeah I broke a string, but hey, I’m still a good strapping boy!”
Kopp grew up playing guitar and singing in church. He recently enlisted in the National Guard. During the preliminary competitions earlier in the week, Kopp was eliminated. He was brought back, and went on to gain excellent audience participation with his performances of “Grundy County Auction” by John Michael Montgomery, “Friends in Low Places” by Garth Brooks, “Good Hearted Woman” by Waylon Jennings and “Folsom Prison Blues” by Johnny Cash.
Kopp said he was surprised at his win.
“The girls had pretty good voices, you know,” he said. “Being the only guy to come out here and (compete against) them girls it was pretty hard. Plus breaking a string on stage, that does it too.”
He hopes, at some point, to make singing a profession. Classic country music is his singing genre with his favorite singers being Johnny Cash, George Jones, Hank Williams and Merle Haggard.
Britt Faaborg, competition anchor judge, said he’d been there every day and has been judging every year since MSF Idol began. This year there weren’t as many entries.
“We didn’t have as many contestants this year as in past years,” he said. “But, the quality of the contestants … we’re very pleased. We’re very pleased with our finalist and our runner-up. It was just a really good competition. Hopefully, we’ll have more contestants next year and we’ll build it back up again.”
Patrick Wilson, the 2013 MSF Idol winner, has judged the competition for two years.
“The judges that we have up there come from a lot of different backgrounds,” he said. “We have people who are in radio, and people who are in classical chorale music, and people like me who are in chorale and in a band. It’s a wealth of knowledge, it’s really wide in terms of the judges.”
Wilson added that he felt Purkey would be in the finials.
“I saw her her first day, and judging from what I had seen the previous days before, I knew she was going to be one of the front runners,” he noted. “She was very posed on stage and she could control that. Cameron (Kopp), he didn’t make it through his first day and he got called back. So it’s a real big success story.”
When Kopp returned to the competition, Wilson encouraged him to interact with the audience. The advice worked.
“… He got that crowd on his side and that’s what really propelled him to that level,” Wilson added.
“We were down in numbers, but I really think we had quality vocalists,” Missy Mays, MSF Idol program coordinator and emcee, said. “I feel like we had a great six (finalists) and it could have been any one of them. You never know how it’s going to go but the audience loved the young kids.”
Mays said she was pleased with this year.
“We had great judges,” she added. “Cameron and Rita Maloney were not the winners on their night. They were not passed in the semi-finals … but the points were close enough that it warranted bringing them back and they didn’t prove me wrong. When they sang in semi-finals they were both solid.”
Faith Bemiss can be reached at 826-1000 ext. 1481 or @flbemiss.