Hitting the Right Note

2017 LaGrange Has Talent winner has a bright future ahead

By Alicia B. Hill
The LaGrange Daily News

Charlie Key is only 12-years-old, but she has already achieved local acclaim for her singing abilities, thanks to her award-winning performance at LaGrange Has Talent last fall, in addition to an impressive number of other locally performances.

Key isn’t even in high school yet, but she already has a dream to one day start a children’s theater. She has performed in programs through Springwood School, the Lafayette Society for Performing Arts, New Horizon Community Theatre and, of course, LaGrange Has Talent.

The Springwood student impressed the judges with her rendition of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” in November 2017, and she was named the winner of the first annual LaGrange Has Talent. Ten finalists were selected by local voters from 38 total entries. The contest benefits BLOCKS, a local early education program, and while Key was excited to perform, she admits that she did not expect to win.

“I just went in and thought ‘This would be a good experience. I’ll do my best and try to make people happy in the audience,’” Charlie said. “I didn’t really think I was going to win, but when they called my name, I was like ‘wow.’ That was a very good experience. I enjoyed it a lot.”

That desire to give her best performance possible may have contributed to her stage presence, which was almost as remarkable as her singing talent.

“There is no doubt about it, she was dynamic on stage,” said Stephanie Preston, the chairperson for LaGrange Has Talent. “Her costume was great, and her stage presence was outstanding, and, of course, her talent was outstanding.”

According to Preston, the judges were all from outside of LaGrange to encourage impartiality, and they graded contestants on talent, overall presentation, creativity, precision, technique and choreography. Key’s performance impressed both the judges and those far more familiar with her singing.

“It is wonderful to see her light up the stage, and she is not nervous a bit, which is surprising and exciting,” said Jennifer Key, Charlie’s mother. “She has a special way of lighting up the room with just her kindness to others.”

The contest raised approximately $15,000 for BLOCKS, a cause Key said is very important to her.

“I was very excited to be able to help kids who don’t get the opportunities that some other kids get,” Charlie said.

The 12-year-old singer said her musical inspiration, Dolly Parton, also inspires her to make a point of giving back to the community.

“She is very generous with what she does, and she gives a lot to kids who don’t get much, like with her Imagination Library,” Charlie said of Parton. “She reads to kids who don’t get that opportunity.”

Jennifer Key said that both she and Charlie plan to volunteer at LaGrange Has Talent this year, and Charlie has also been invited back, as the winner of the first year of the contest.

“We’ve got a great, enthusiastic group of volunteers, and we are already getting the word out,” Preston said. “We are starting earlier at trying to recruit talent throughout Troup County, so anybody who has a Troup County address — permanent or temporary — is qualified to submit their video during the month of September.”

Submissions will be accepted from Sept. 1 to Sept. 30 on Lagrangehastalent.com. Online voting will take place in October, and the top 10 contestants will compete in a live show on Nov. 15 at the Troup High School Fine Arts Auditorium. The winner, as decided by a panel of judges, will receive $2,000, and $500 will be awarded to the people’s choice winner. Prize money comes from sponsorships for the event.

In addition to LaGrange Has Talent, Key is also a member of the Young Singers of West Georgia, and she was one of the members featured in the group’s recent cover of The Wanted’s “Gold Forever,” which was filmed by the Callaway Memorial Clock tower. The video had more than 4,000 views by the end of July.

“I thought it was kind of cool the way we did it, how we had the drones going over us,” Charlie said. “I thought that was cool, and how we got to run around the clock tower [was fun]. I like running.”

Charlie said that she has been a member of Young Singers for two years, and she has participated in several performances in that time. The group’s regular practices have also given her the opportunity to grow as a performer.

“She really tries to glean as much information as she can about voice and about performing, and that really shows up in her performances,” said Stacey Hardigree, the YSWG conductor and artistic director. “She takes that information and actually applies it.”

Hardigree said that Charlie also brings a great energy to the stage when she performs.

“Charlie adds a lot of spunk and charm when she performs,” Hardigree said. “She is not afraid to shine on the stage. She is very aware of her stage presence, and that is just another aspect of what we teach that she really pays attention to and exhibits when she has the chance to be on stage.”

The Young Singers of West Georgia’s next major performance will be their annual Christmas Memories concert in December.

Charlie has also branched out into musical theatre, and she performed in Springwood School’s production of the Wizard of Oz during the 2017-2018 school year. Because she is an underclassman, she filled smaller roles in the musical of Munchkin, Poppy and Oz citizen, but Charlie said performance was still exciting for her because of the people who shared the stage.

“I enjoyed [being with] my sister,” Key said. “She is going to Point Park [University] in Pittsburgh for performing arts, and she was Dorothy, so I enjoyed spending time getting to be in a play with her before she has to go to college.”

That was also far from her only performance in the last year. Charlie attended summer theater camps at both LSPA and New Horizon Community Theatre over the summer.

“I did a camp at New Horizon Theatre in West Point, and the 50s was the theme,” Charlie said. “I was the mayor. I sang ‘Tutti Frutti.’”

Charlie said that she enjoyed singing in the musical and has enjoyed being part of other performances at New Horizon. She is also part the school chorus at Springwood School. Charlie said she one day hopes to start her own children’s theater.

“I hope to continue singing, training, studying and acting,” Charlie said. “One day, I want to own a children’s theater, so that I can help kids who want to do what I love doing. So, I can help them have an opportunity to do that too.”

Charlie’s hours in the Lafayette Society for Performing Arts building will undoubtedly help her work toward that goal, along with the degree that she is already looking into.

“They have degrees in college for children’s theater — on how to own one, operate one — and she is interested in that kind of thing,” said Jennifer Key.

Charlie said that she took inspiration for her dream from Parton, who founded the Imagination Library to provide books to children from birth to age five. The goal also combines her love for singing and performing on stage.

“I like musical theater, and I like country, especially country by Dolly Parton because she is so talented,” Charlie said.  “She came from a small place, and she became this big star. She just believed in her dreams. Even though she is very famous, she is very humble about everything.”

Charlie plans to take voice lessons with an instructor at LaGrange College this year.

To learn more about plans for this year’s LaGrange Has Talent, visit Lagrangehastalent.com.

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