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Emily Sargent, 15, smiles as she shows her mother a call back card after her audition for Connecticut Icon at the Comfort Suites in Southington, Aug. 23, 2014. Saturday was the second day of auditions for the singing competition. Twelve finalists will be chosen from the call back round and move onto the finals, Aug. 30 and 31 at Lake Compounce. | Eric Vo / Record-Journal

Singers audition in Southington for Connecticut Icon

SOUTHINGTON — Walking down the hallway into the lobby of the Comfort Suites Saturday afternoon, Emily Sargent couldn’t contain her excitement as she held up a yellow piece of a paper and broke out into a large smile.

The 15-year-old Southington resident made it through the second day of auditions for Connecticut Icon — a singing competition that draws the attention of participants from around the state. The competition was formerly known as Southington Icon and was held at the town’s Apple Harvest Festival in 2009.

Connecticut Icon is similar to other televised singing competitions, such as Fox’s “American Idol.” Contestants have to sing a sample in front of a panel of judges, who determine whether they’ll return for a call back. Call backs will be held later this evening at the Comfort Suites, from 4 to 6 p.m.

Twelve finalists will move on to the finals, which will be held at the Starlight Theater at Lake Compounce, Aug. 30 and 31.

Judging the auditions were Susan Zoni, Charley Tiernan, Gabby Baker, Chris Palmieri, Carol Milano and Mary Allard. The judges were divided into two groups and put into two separate rooms.

“I’m happy I’m not picking the talent because it’s just so amazing,” said founder Melissa Ericksen-Salmon.

Auditions were open for four hours each day. Forty participants auditioned on the first day, Ericksen-Salmon said, and noted that the competition was drawing a more “diverse” pool of contestants.

“Each year, I kept getting asked if you had to be from Southington to audition,” Ericksen-Salmon said. “If you look at today, we have people coming from Fairfield, Hebron and Middletown.”

Within the first hour of the second day of auditions, the lobby of the Comfort Suites was filled with family members, friends and hopeful singers. As Ericksen-Salmon called two participants up, she led them down the hallway and into their respective rooms to audition.

There were a growing number of singers that would join in on Emily’s excitement, as they were handed a yellow call back card. Not every participant, however, moved onto the next stage of the competition.

Amanda Brenkus was chosen to return for a call back — she walked back into the lobby and proudly held up her card.

“It’s such a rush,” the 24-year-old New Britain resident said. “You get nervous and anxious, but you have to control it,”

Before being given the chance to audition, Emily sat at a table in the back corner of the lobby with her mother for 45 minutes. The Southington High School junior said she’s auditioned for musicals and plays in the past, but never for a singing competition.

“Can I have contestant 149 please?” Ericksen-Salmon said to the crowd as Emily stood up and walked over.

She performed Lindsay Mendez’s “Hand in Hand” for her audition.

“When I was singing, I felt nervous,” she said after the audition. “Eventually I just told myself to let it go and sing. And I did — I hit all the high notes!”

Although she was excited to move on to the next round of the competition, she was already thinking about what song to sing for her call back performance.

“You’ve got to show some versatility,” her mother, Marianne Sargent, said.

Emily nodded and chose Carrie Underwood’s “Undo It.”

“I’m so excited,” Emily said smiling. “I hope I make it.” (203) 317-2235 Twitter: @EricVoRJ

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