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Dumorris Smith sings “Let’s Get It On,” by Marvin Gaye, during his performance at a preliminary round of the Homegrown Talent Contest. See him compete at Panoply as a finalist.
Daily photos by Gary Cosby Jr.
Dumorris Smith sings “Let’s Get It On,” by Marvin Gaye, during his performance at a preliminary round of the Homegrown Talent Contest. See him compete at Panoply as a finalist.

Local talent in spotlight at Panoply
17 make it to the finals of Homegrown contest

By Patrice Stewart
pstewart@decaturdaily.com· 340-2446

These performers have already tried “American Idol,” Colgate Country Showdown and karaoke contests, and now you can see them compete at Panoply in Huntsville next weekend.

Dumorris Smith of Hillsboro, 29, will depart from his usual life as a gospel singer and security lieutenant at United Launch Alliance to sing Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On.”

Brooke Higdon, a 14-year-old student from Decatur, will don her cowboy hat and boots to sing “Ready to Run” by the Dixie Chicks.

Tommy Campbell of Decatur, a 31-year-old assistant manager of a Home Depot, is rehearsing his rendition of “Kickin’ and Screamin’ ” by Garth Brooks, while the Decatur rock band Blue Syndicate will perform a locally written song called “The Hills.”

Check out the Panoply Arts Festival in Huntsville next weekend, and you may see someone you know on stage.

Seventeen from Decatur, Athens, Somerville, Hartselle and Hillsboro were among 50 from North Alabama chosen to compete in the finals of Panoply’s Homegrown Talent Contest on the AT&T Showcase Stage from noon to 3:30 p.m. next Sunday.

They must perform the same song, music or dance that they did in the preliminaries, which were held at malls in Decatur, Huntsville and Florence in February and March. The top winners will get cash prizes.

Guitarists from Blue Syndicate try out for the Homegrown Talent Contest with an instrument-al number they wrote. The band will play at Panoply for a chance at cash prizes.
Guitarists from Blue Syndicate try out for the Homegrown Talent Contest with an instrument-al number they wrote. The band will play at Panoply for a chance at cash prizes.
Smith said he went to the Memphis tryouts for “American Idol” last August.

“They told me I was a month too old, but I did get to sing there — they let me sing on the radio and everything. From what they said, I did pretty good.”

The Hillsboro resident said he doesn’t have any special training. “God just blessed me with some talent, and what I usually do is gospel, but I like rhythm and blues, too, and I do gospel stage plays.”

His biggest fans will be in the audience: his wife, Tenecia Smith, and 18-month-old son, Tyus, plus other friends and family.

“I plan on representing our area very well and putting it on the map,” Smith said.

Higdon said she has been listening to the Dixie Chicks for a while and really likes “Ready to Run,” so she decided to sing it at Colonial Mall when her voice teacher, Gary McKenzie, told her about the Homegrown Talent contest.

‘Good opportunity’

Brooke Higdon, 16, sings “Ready to Run,” by the Dixie Chicks, at Colonial Mall in Decatur while trying out for the Homegrown Talent Contest. She will perform at Panoply as a finalist.
Brooke Higdon, 16, sings “Ready to Run,” by the Dixie Chicks, at Colonial Mall in Decatur while trying out for the Homegrown Talent Contest. She will perform at Panoply as a finalist.
“I’ve been in the Loretta Lynn competition at her farm near Nashville and in the Colgate Country Showdown preliminaries in Gilbertown and Opelika,” she said, as well as the Mid-South Fair competition in Memphis. “I think this is another good opportunity.”

Campbell, who used to be a karaoke disc jockey and compete in karaoke contests, said he’s just doing this for fun and exposure.

“I’m a huge Garth Brooks fan, so I chose ‘Kickin’ and Screamin,’ ’ but I have a CD including original songs I co-wrote, so anything that happens is welcome,” he said.

Lucas Smith, 15, is the lead guitarist and singer for Blue Syndicate, and he also writes about 90 percent of the music and teaches it to the other band members.

“All the rock ’n’ roll songs nowadays are about girls, and they all sound the same. We’re trying to make our songs different and trying to get known,” he said of the band. “We play everything from blues to psychedelic rock to pop rock to classic rock, and our three biggest influences are Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and the Beatles.”

He said they are hoping to win some money for gas and equipment at Panoply, because right now, their parents have to drive them everywhere.

“A lot of people underestimate us because of our age,” he said. Blue Syndicate recently came in second in a battle of the bands in Decatur.

According to Panoply personnel at The Arts Council of Huntsville, some others making finals from this area include Ken McCullough and Antrece King, both of Hillsboro; Layla Sharp, Danielle Gibson, Marquis Morris, Gary McKenzie, Bailie McRae and Beverly Lipscomb, all of Decatur; Devin Burton of Hartselle; Susan Hood, Rylie Livingston and John David Crowe, all of Athens (Crowe had to drop out due to a conflict); and Sarah Johnson of Somerville.

If you go

What: The 26th Panoply Arts Festival, with area arts groups performing on three main stages, plus an arts marketplace and hands-on art activities for children and adults

When: April 27-29, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday and noon to 8 p.m. on Sunday

Where: Big Spring Park in downtown Huntsville

Admission: A weekend pass is $10, a single day pass is $5 and children 12 and under are free; for schedule and information, check www.panoply.org.

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