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“America’s Got Talent” is a popular TV show where people of all ages and talents perform in hopes of winning the grand prize of $1 million. The show has been running for the last 14 seasons.

West County has its own talent show, called West County’s Got Talent.

This contest started 10 years ago after Kevin Coffman, who was principal of West County Middle School, asked choir director Ryan Hassell if he would move his annual choir fundraiser to a different time of the school year because it conflicted with a school-wide fundraiser which Coffman coordinated.

“I remember his exact words,” said Hassell. “He said, ‘Hassell, I’m going to have to get you to move your choir fundraiser.”

Instead of shifting the choir fundraiser to a different time of year, Hassell suggested to Coffman to create a West County’s Got Talent contest as an alternative.

The district already hosted its West County Idol competition, so this contest would give students with other talents beside singing the opportunity to participate.

Coffman loved the idea and asked Hassell to take charge of the event. That was 10 years ago.

The latest installment of West County’s Got Talent takes place Friday in the high school gymnasium starting at 6 p.m.

“We are excited to have the West County Elementary Honor Choir singing the national anthem as well as the song ‘Gotta Have the Music’ during the tabulation time for us,” said Hassell.

In addition, the middle school choir will sing “Defying Gravity” from the musical “Wicked.” Two students, Daja Eckhoff and Lilly Hammock, have solos in the piece. Hammock recently transferred to the district so this will be her singing debut at West County.

Hassell said the West County High School Swing Choir has been working hard on two songs for the contest. The first is a popular ballad titled “You Are the Reason.” The second song is a singing-and-dancing piece titled “Nightmare Before Christmas.” Students Allie Rawson and Katelyn Herrera have designed choreography for this medley of songs. The swing choir has been working on their own time each morning before school to rehearse for this piece.

The high school’s jazz band will also perform.

“It’s going to be a very exciting night,” said Hassell. “It is a nice evening to showcase the many talents of our West County students from all three buildings.”

The average audience size for West County’s Got Talent is 300-500, so attendees will want to arrive earlier than the 6 p.m. start time. Cost to attend is $5 per person. Every paying member of the audience will receive a ballot so they can help choose the winners of the evening.

All money raised for the event goes to the middle school’s activities fund to pay for student incentives.

Participants for this year’s contest include the following:

Elementary division – Kyleigh Kearns and Alaynah Holdman, “Stand By Me,” lyrical dance; Patricia Herrington, “On My Way,” vocal solo; Maddison Herrington, “Savage,” vocal solo; and Peyton Moses, “Fly,” vocal solo.

Middle school division – Kayla Cox and Destiny Menke, “Little Do You Know,” vocal duet; Kenneth Godat, “Happier,” vocal solo; Aiden DeClue, “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” vocal solo; Sara Lewis, “At Last,” vocal solo; Autumn King, “Sound of Silence,” flute solo; Lilly Hammock, “Burning House,” vocal solo.

High school division – Mady Little, “Not About Angels,” vocal solo; Chloe Nipper, “Blessings,” vocal solo; Brianna Dill, “On My Own,” vocal solo; Chloe Nipper and Jenna Simily, “I Love You,” vocal duet; and Josh Bice and Brianna Dill, “Lovely,” vocal duet

Hassell, who is in his 19th year as middle and high school choir director, organizes the annual event. He is assisted by several staff members and students: Drew Hartenberger, elementary division coordinator; Darren Cordray, jazz band director; Josh Neeley and Braden Skaggs, spotlight; concert choir setup crew; Mady Little, Katelyn Herrera and Allie Rawson, stage hands; Luke Steiniger, sound; Susan Masters, tickets; WCTV crew, video; Angie Black and CJ Wright, WCTV sponsors; and Amy Clabaugh, Denise and Chris LaBruyere, Belinda Drennen and Susan Masters, tabulators.

West County Idol is set for March 13 at 6 p.m. in the high school gym.

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