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Who will be the next Senior Idol?

Sandy Hendricks has had a lot of experience singing in public — in her younger years, singing with bands, and now in her own karaoke business.
But when she went to audition for the Shepherd’s Center Senior Idol contest last year, she was shaking with nerves. “It doesn’t matter how many times I have sung in public, I still get so nervous until I get into my song,” she said.
Despite her nerves, she wowed the crowd of about 100 that night, winning first-place in the contest and a $300 cash prize.

Becoming an idol

The Senior Idol Contest is a fundraiser for the Shepherd’s Center in Chesterfield — part of a nonprofit, national network of centers that support learning among older adults and provide a variety of services for them. Each year, anyone over 50 can audition for Senior Idol, no matter where they live in Virginia.
Musicians, singers, actors, comedians and performers of all kinds are welcome. On the night of the show — this year on May 12 — a dozen finalists will have the opportunity to impress the judges and audience by performing one song or act. The judges will then select the top three performers for prizes.
As a sample, this year’s auditions in April included such diverse music as the reggae/pop hit, “I’m Yours,” the soulful “Me and Mrs. Jones,” and the traditional hymn, “Calvary is the Reason Why.”
Hendricks, last year’s winner, had shown some reluctance to compete in prior years. “I had friends that had been in it, and each time, I missed the deadline. Finally, one of my friends called and said, ‘Get down there!’  — and I did.”
It didn’t hurt that Hendricks brought 20 friends to the competition to cheer her on.
Hendricks, 55, sings at private shows, and loves karaoke so much that she runs her own karaoke business at Kingpin Lanes in Midlothian on Friday nights and every other Saturday.
The Idol contest awards cash prizes of $300, $200 and $100 for first, second and third place, respectively. In addition, there are awards for the most tickets sold, and a people’s choice award that allows anyone to vote for contestants on the center’s web page the week before the contest.
In addition, the first-place winner has, in the past, represented the Shepherd’s Center in the Chesterfield County parade.
Hendricks said the other contestants were very talented, and “I was totally shocked when I won.”

Accomplished finalists

One of this year’s finalists is a trio that performs under the name Retroactive. Vocalists Diana Sage and Susan Gerber are accompanied on piano by Bob Phillips.
Gerber, 69, went to New York at age 20, sang in light operas and did some theatre. Along the way, she also went to law school and became a “Jeopardy!” champion. She came to Richmond with her husband and baby, and became a public defender here. But she never lost her love of music and the stage.
Gerber met Sage at Bifocal Theatre Productions in Richmond seven years ago. They found that they harmonized so well together, they began performing. Sage said that while they did not meet until they each moved to Richmond, both had careers as professional actors in musical comedies in New York.
Like Hendricks, Sage said she also still gets nervous, but “we are always prepared when we perform.” Both she and Gerber are also involved in the Chamberlayne Actors Theatre in Richmond.
Bob Phillips, 70, recently moved here from North Carolina, and became their accompanist. The trio performs for private parties and at many local retirement communities and senior centers. Gerber said, “my goal is to stay young forever.” Music, he says, is one way to do that!
You can hear Retroactive at the Crossings at Bon Air Center next month. In the Senior Idol contest, the trio will be singing an Irving Berlin medley consisting of “Play a Simple Melody” and “You’re Just in Love.”
Another team among the contest finalists this year is the duo of Steve Harris and L.T. Holmes, known simply as Motown Steve and L.T. Both men have years of experience singing in groups and bands.
In his early teens, Harris, with his two brothers, sang with Bruce Hornsby and Paul Anka. Now 64, Harris retired from teaching art seven years ago, but said he will never retire from singing.
Holmes, 65, is still working at a government agency. He met Harris eight years ago, and they have been singing together since then. Holmes began singing at age 10 in gospel groups with his siblings. They performed professionally as the Five Echos. He also plays bass guitar.
Steve and L.T. focus mostly on rhythm and blues, and sing locally at private gigs and weddings.
Hendricks said of competing last year, “It was a wonderful experience. A very friendly competition — everyone was nice.”
She encourages everyone to “come try out for this!” She adds that the event helps the Shepherd’s Center provide meals, rides to medical appointments, and other types of support for the center’s users.

Cheer on your favorites

The 2017 Senior Idol Show will take place on Friday, May 12 from 7 to 9:30 p.m. at the Victory Tabernacle Church of God, 11700 Genito Rd., Midlothian.
Tickets are $10, and may be purchased at the church, at the Shepherd’s Center office at 6800 Lucy Corr Boulevard in Chesterfield, by visiting the center’s website at, or by calling (804) 706-9198. Tickets will also be available at the door on the night of the event.
Brandi Pope, Mrs. Virginia America 2012 and the executive director and producer of the Mrs. Virginia America Pageant, will emcee the show.
For more information about the show or Shepherd’s Center, call (804) 706-9198.

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