The votes are in, and Clifton Park has crowned 13 year old resident Katie Lee as the winner of the Clifton Park Idol singing competition for her age group.
Lee, a seventh grader at Gowana Middle School, started singing at a young age when she sat with her father at their piano and learned songs such as, “You Are My Sunshine.” She is no stranger to singing in front of crowds, and is a member of multiple choirs, including the St. Edward’s Children’s Choir, and treble choir at school. She was in kindergarten the first time she performed in front of an audience, singing a song from “The Little Mermaid.”
Lee was oblivious to nerves in kindergarten, focusing instead on the exhilaration that came with making people smile. Lee said that having her family in the audience as a focal point helped her become more at ease with performing. Lee said her family attends all of her performances.
“That’s kind of how you start being comfortable,” Lee said. A veteran of Clifton Park Idol, she values the learning opportunity provided by her to watching other singers while they compete. The first time she entered the contest was in third grade, though this year’s event on Feb. 11 was the first time she competed in the older age group. Previously, she has won the contest twice and placed third two other times. This year, her song of choice was, “I Feel the Earth Move” by Carol King.
“It’s crazy. I can’t believe I’ve been doing this for that long, but it’s so fun. It’s a way to get out there and meet new people and see other people sing,” Lee said.
Lee now takes vocal lessons now every week, but she used to sing everywhere. Performing and hearing critiques has allowed her to refine her talent. She said that the judges in Clifton Park Idol are positive, but they also tell her what she should work on, and then remember their own suggestions when she comes back the next year.
“If you just sang in front of people, and they told you the really good things, it’s nice,” Lee said. “But you also want to know the criticisms because you can work on it.”
Sometimes, Lee said, she has trouble deciding whether or not she can handle a certain song, or she doubts her own abilities, but her fears are often offset by the fact that no has has ever told her that she can’t do something.
Even when she came in third, Lee said there’s always a bright side to look on, and that it’s important to not let one setback ruin a passion.
The residents of the town, Lee said, will cheer for her regardless of whether or not she wins. She also cheers for her fellow competitors.
“There’s always next year. And that’s what you take with you, if you don’t get something you want. You have to keep on trying,” she said.
Besides singing, Lee enjoys sports, but doesn’t have a lot of time to dedicate to playing them. Instead, she focuses on learning to play other instruments, including the ukulele and guitar.
She enjoys the Beatles and Kelly Clarkson, and hopes to study music in college and make a career out of songwriting and performing, eventually. Though she acknowledged the difficulty in pursuing such a career, she emphasized the importance of focus and hard work.
“There are gonna be people in the way who say no, you can’t do this,” she said. Surrounding herself with positive people has allowed her to keep her eyes on the prize.
But for now, even though each competition makes her want to compete even more, Lee is going to take her journey one step at a time, starting with once again competing in Clifton Park Idol next year.
“As long as I’m singing, if it’s in the nail salon, on the subway, I’ll be happy because if I can make someone smile, even myself, it’s what I love to do,” she said.