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The 12th Annual Taste of Soul Family Festival (TOS), presented StarQuest Sponsored by Hyundai, in its sixth 6th year of the singing competition that offers local vocalists a chance to showcase their talents at the festival. The event was held this past Saturday, October 21, from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., on Crenshaw Blvd. and 39th street.  It was a hit, yet again with the merging of these two mega brands, the partnership produced and supported 21 amazing local vocalists, from adults to kids, with shocking performances that stunned the judges and Los Angeles residents, who came out to support the competition. 

The day began with DJ Y-Not getting the TOS/StarQuest audience hyped and ready for an array of  soulful talent headed to South L.A.’s legendary Crenshaw Blvd.  Voice of God (VOG) followed by introducing host of the Adult competition, Karla Gordy Bristol.  

Enthusiastic TOS attendees gathered to see the 2017 StarQuest line up performers. StarQuest adult contestants included: Brandon Wattz, Khoryawne Heads, Kyree Sterling, ShareeFogarty, Byrd Duckett, Goward D. Horton II, Ryan Wirtz, Terrill Williams Carter, Christopher Doc Martin and Norma Richardson, who all gave their very best rendition of Motown’s finest hits.

Finalist Terrill Williams Carter brought her puppy Tobey for support, as she waited for her moment to shine in front of well-wishers and the Crenshaw family. Carter told the Sentinel she was thrilled to see so many people come and vibe out to great music. “I was pumped up to hit the stage and perform ‘Mr. Postman’ by the Marvelettes; I picked the song, because I’ve always remembered loving that song,” she revealed.

“It a blessing and I’m thankful for the opportunity to be able to be here,” acknowledged singer, Chris­topher Doc Martin. “I just want to do the best that I can and let God do the rest.” Martin performed an oldie but goodie, “I Like It”, by Debarge. The UC Santa Barbara alumnus revealed it was a turning point for him to pursue music professionally after college. “Taste of Soul is important for this community and it’s an honor to be here and share my talent with this community,” said Martin.

Ryan Wirtz was the StarQuest Adult winner, taking home the $500 check for his soulful performance. “I never attended or performed at the Taste of Soul,” said Wirtz. “This is a different experience for me, because this is the biggest crowd I’ve ever sung for. Wirtz, who performed, “Let’s Get It On”, by Marvin Gaye, states he  grew up listening to Motown, “it’s perfect for me, because I love The Supremes, The Temptations, and Smokey Robinson. I lucked out.” Wirtz is currently working on his upcoming EP and is also focusing on acting. “Everyone has been so supportive; it definitely helps the performers at the Taste of Soul,” the singer adds.

On his win, “It doubles the pleasure for me, I am celebrating my birthday today. I’m over the moon, I haven’t won that many competitions so it feels good.”

Oakland native Byrd Duckett performed a classic Stevie Wonder song for fans. The background singer and actress is not new to performing for the public and was thrilled to present her talent at this year’s competition. She has performed a “Raisin In the Sun” at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre and has her own project called “My Name Is Byrd”.

On Motown’s contribution to Black music history, Duckett explains, “I think it’s very relevant because, they have paved the way for all African American artists. They taught Black artists about show business, stage presence, and sound.. Her parents are from Chicago and are fans of Motown and were proud to hear she was performing in honor of the legendary music label.

As the event continued, fans of the competition were treated to the StarQuest 4kids line up, including Nancy Fifita, K'LynnJackman, Jhala Angelique, Sydney Strickland, Na'Miyah McCormick, Anisa Washington, Auriana Chisholm, Mykira Cleopatra Church, Jordan Jackman, Kennedy Chism and ZirahHajjaj.

The young artists did not disappoint, belting out soulful hits from Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell’s beloved duet “You're All I Need To Get By” and more.

“This is a huge blessing for me,” said one contestant. “I wanted the fans to feel the message and the song that I sang.”

One contestant felt invigorated after rocking the stage, stating, “I could really feel the energy from the [Taste of Soul] audience. I got into the song and I loved it. The budding singer continued telling her fellow contestants “to not be scared … the more you work for it, than hope for it, you’ll get it.”

Na'Miyah McCormick stated her favorite Motown great is Michael Jackson.

One StarQuest 4Kids contestants, who performed a Jackson 5 hit, “I Wanna Be Where You Are,” revealed he would love to one day be a doctor, if not a singer.”

Nancy Fifita won the StarQuest 4 Kids, receiving a check for $500 dollars sponsored by Hyundai. StarQuest has always succeeded in putting unknown urban, multi-cultural talent within our community on the map, Wirtz, being a mixed African-American and Fifita, a native from Tonga, who is Polynesian, were awarded with solo performances at the 94.7 The WAVE stage and the KJLH stage, singing in front of thousands.

Last year’s Starquest Adult winner, JerrellLaconn, got the crowd hyped with a funky/ EDM track.  “This stage did a lot for me last year, and opened a lot of doors for me, and I released my first single.  It did well on the charts and it’s nice to come back and network with other Starquest contestants and winners,” he said.

Two separate judge panelists, who are well-versed industry vets, were on hand for the StarQuest 4 Kids and for the Adults portion of the singing competition, to lend valuable advice for performers. Members of Berry Gordy’s legacy was on board for hosting and judging the competition. Iris Gordy, Berry's niece, a VP at Motown; Karla Gordy Bristol, Iris' daughter, Motown exec and co-host of “Beverly Hills View” TV show; Kerry Gordy, Berry's son, founder of Kerry Gordy Enterprises, A&R executive at Motown and Warner Bros. Records; Cornelius Grant, guitarist, composer and musical director for the Temptations, Brenda Holloway; Rory Pullens, senior executive director of Arts Education, LAUSD; James Leach Sr. VP, SESAC; Brenda Lee Eager, singer/songwriter; Cee Barrett, associate director, BMI; Malcolm David Kelly, actor, “Detroit;” Jane Eugene, singer (“Loose Ends”) and actor Marcel Spears (“The Mayor”).

“It’s hopeful, I’m listening and hearing the respect of the song,” said R&B vet Kenny Lattimore. “It’s amazing and great to see young talent. I remember being on stage and experiencing the rawness of it. When you see something raw like this, you can always shape it into something great. As long as they continue to love it and stay in it, I think that each person up there can really be great in the music game,” added the soulful crooner, who has a new album, “Vulnerable”, with lead single, “Push” out now.

“Insecure” actress Dom­inique Perry, one of the judges at the StarQuest Hyundai Soundstage, stated she was happy to be among great musicians. “I didn’t  know about StarQuest or Taste of Soul,” she laughs.

“I’ve been in Los Angeles for two years and this is my first time.”

High-Key, Sha-Sha and 2016 StarQuest 4Kids winner, Chloe Roston, rounded out the stellar performances for the stage. The StarQuest Soundstage sponsored by Hyundai continued on from 2:00 pm to 7:00 pm, with DJ B-Hen’s crowd moving music that rocked audience, as fans anticipated  Grammy award-winner Brandy, powerhouse singer Melanie Fiona, songstress Raffia and Candace Coles & The CJ Legacy Band, and hip hop pioneers Doug E. Fresh , and Kool Moe Dee and Kenny Lattimore, who all gave star-studded performances for TOS attendees to enjoy.

For more information on the 2017 StarQuest Soundstage Sponsored by Hyundai and 12th Annual Taste of Soul Family Festival visit tasteofsoul.org, lasentinel.net and http://lawattstimes.com/

See you next year at Taste of Soul 2018!

Category: Cover Stories