Fulton County Girl To Compete In “Rising Star’’
Armed with a set of earbuds and lyrics on her lips, Fulton County’s best and brightest up-and-coming star will be showcasing her talent beginning next month in an 11- week singing competition known as “Rising Star.”
Fifteen-year-old Olivia Mills of Waterfall is slated to be one of 10 performers featured during the event that will get under way Sunday, January 23, at Heartland Hall in Bedford.
Loosely based on the concept of the popular “American Idol” television show, Rising Star was created by Pastor Matt Vollbrecht of New Hope Community Church in Everett and his wife, Jessica, a teacher at Forbes Road Junior/Senior High School.
“We wanted to provide great family-oriented entertainment – something fun for people to do on Sunday afternoons,” said Vollbrecht. “Neither contestants nor audience members ever get a lecture or a sermon. We don’t make anyone go to church, and we don’t require anyone to believe any certain thing. We just provide entertainment, and hope we can show the love of God while doing it.”
Now in its fifth year, Rising Star may require little of its contestants in terms of eligibility criteria but expects much more when it comes to talent. Mills, who will be the youngest competitor to take the stage in 2011, certainly didn’t disappoint judges Matt Vollbrecht, Tom Kunkle and Jennifer Hillenbrand with her audition that included a rendition of Taylor Swift’s “Change.”
“When I first saw her (Olivia) perform, had a chance to meet her and hear her sing, I immediately thought, ‘Now there’s a girl who’s gonna go far in this competition.’ She has an amazing talent and isn’t afraid to use it. She’s also got a wonderful personality,” said Vollbrecht.
“Her audition that first day was as close to flawless as anything I’ve seen at an initial audition. Of course, from here on out it’s not up to the judges, but I think it’s safe to suppose she’ll go far in this competition. I’m looking forward to continuing to work with her and seeing what she’ll bring to the shows each week,” he added.
After making the initial cut, which saw 20-plus individuals perform, Mills moved onto the semifinal round, where she performed Kelly Clarkson’s “A Moment Like This.” Now having been selected for the final round of competition with nine other participants, Mills is prepared to pull out all of the stops on January 23 with “Chain of Fools” by Aretha Franklin.
Being an avid fan of “American Idol” herself, Mills knows all too well the rules of song selection. She needs to pick a song suited for her own vocal range while not playing things too safe yet not overshooting. A lover off all genres of music ranging from classical to hip-hop, Mills, the daughter of Joyce Mills-Lupey and Mike Lupey of Waterfall also doesn’t limit her performances to any one style or brand of music.
That will prove an advantage for Mills, and other contestants like her, as the competition is designed to allow participants to sing any style of song certain weeks. Other weeks, judges will require certain themes such as gospel, country or even love songs to be performed. Following each performance during the 11-week time frame, members of the live audience get to cast a vote for their favorite contestant. Each week, the individual with the least amount of votes is eliminated
Olivia’s mother, Joyce Mills-Lupey, isn’t shocked by her daughter excelling musically. Always performing for and entertaining those around her, her daughter was even a standout in her own right at the age of three as a member of the “Little Cherubs” church choir.
“You could always hear her even in a group of 10 or 12 little kids,” joked Mills-Lupey. Years later as a 10th-grader at Forbes Road, Mills is a member of the school’s band, chorus and Drama Club. Not surprisingly, she has also secured the lead female role in the 2011 musical production of “Footloose.”
“I think what sets Olivia apart from the other performers is that ever since she was a child she has enjoyed all varieties of music. To a certain degree, she hasn’t boxed herself in,” said Mills’ mother.
Having heard from one judge during auditions that she has the potential to win Rising Star, Mills true goal is to become more musically inclined and continue growing vocally.
Even though she is hopeful she will someday receive a scholarship to study music, Mills is currently enrolled in the Allied Health program offered through the Fulton County Area Vocational-Technical School. Her tentative plans are to attend the University of Pittsburgh to become an anesthesiologist.
Cash prizes will be awarded to the top five contestants, and the winner receives a $1,000 cash prize as well as a professionally recorded demo album and availability on iTunes and other online music stores.
Rising Star is slated to run from January 23 through April 3, with all shows, except for the finale, beginning at 2 p.m. The finale will start on April 3 at 6 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at the door, and special season tickets and group rates are also available.