'Military Idol' Competition Begins on Army Installations
By Tim Hipps
Special to American Forces Press Service
ALEXANDRIA, Va., Aug. 5, 2005 The first round of "Military Idol" competition began this week on U.S. Army installations around the world.
The program, based on Fox Television's "American Idol" series, will select the inaugural Military Idol after a final week of singing competition Oct. 17 through 23 at Fort Gordon, Ga.
To reach the finals, military vocalists must first win a competition on one of 36 installations. Depending on the number of local competitors, that process could take from one to eight weeks, competition officials said.
The Military Idol program is the brainchild of Coleen Amstein, who works in business programs for the U.S. Army Community and Family Support Center, and Victor Hurtado, artistic director for the U.S. Army Soldier Show, one of several programs offered by Army Entertainment Division.
"I had been working with the ('American Idol') folks for a while, and in the back of my mind I had wondered how we could put something together for our soldiers," Hurtado said. "I got an e-mail ... from Coleen Amstein asking what I thought about doing an Idol promotion and asking if I could help. She had no idea about my connections with 'Idol.'"
While visions of Soldier Idols were forming in Hurtado's head, Amstein and the CFSC business programs team were brainstorming events for Morale, Welfare and Recreation facilities.
"We thought: 'Wouldn't it be great if we could bring something like 'American Idol' into our clubs?' Amstein said. "But we didn't really have the talent or the connections to do something like that."
She sent an e-mail to Hurtado, who contacted officials at FremantleMedia, which holds the rights to "American Idol."
"The concept of what we could do was the easy part," Amstein said. "The reality of the execution was certainly much more difficult than what we had expected."
A licensing agreement was contracted with FremantleMedia, and the idea evolved into a program within a year.
"It was a matter of working with legal and business affairs, making sure that 'Idol' leadership and the legal arm agreed that we could go forward and do 'Military Idol,'" Hurtado said. "My role in this has been to make sure that the soldiers and the Army got the most out of this project."
During the first round of "Military Idol" installation-level competition, contestants must sing without musical accompaniment. Three judges, who may include garrison commanders, command sergeants major and local celebrities, will narrow the field of talent.
In the second round of local competition, judges and audiences will determine who advances. Spectators will submit written ballots after the performers are finished and judges have completed their critiques. The audience vote and judges' vote each will count 50 percent in determining who advances.
During the local semifinal and final rounds, judges will critique each performance but will not vote, leaving determination of the installation winners to the audiences.
When entering the venue, everyone will receive a ballot to vote once. An additional ballot can be obtained with each purchase of an appetizer or meal during the event. The number of local rounds of competition - not to exceed eight weeks - will be determined by the installation's MWR director based on the number of contestants.
Installation-level prizes for the winner at each participating location include $500 and temporary duty costs covered by USACFSC to compete in the Armywide finals. The winning vocalist's unit also will receive $500. Second-place contestants will receive $250, and third-place performers will receive $100.
Army wide finals prizes include $1,000 to the winner, who Hurtado hopes will become an ambassador for Army entertainment. "If they can represent the Army in a positive way with something that's exceptional, it just reflects on the Army as a whole," he said.
During the finals, which are scheduled for a live, 90-minute telecast on the Pentagon Channel, the runner-up will receive $500 and the third-place performer will receive $250.
Complete rules of the contest are available at the competition's Web site.
(Tim Hipps is assigned to U.S. Army Community and Family Support Center public affairs.)