It's crazy to think we're already preparing for the 13th annual First Night Spotlight contest. Now a staple of the First Night Missoula experience, First Night Spotlight is a singing competition open to local area high school students. Preliminary rounds take place in early December. Contestants are evaluated by our esteemed panel of judges on voice quality, song choice, stage presence, audience engagement, dramatization/choreography, and costume choice. The final round takes place at 8:30 pm on New Year’s Eve at the height of First Night Missoula in the Dennison Theatre on the University of Montana campus.

For all Western Montana high school students wanting to participate, the deadline is Monday, December 4th. If you want to sign up, you can do that here. Just remember it's all about having fun and putting on a great show for the audience, and the people in the crowd are there to cheer you on!

Here are some tips for performers from our judges.
1. Command the stage. This is why your stance is so important. Your body language and ability to stay centered, stay calm tells you audience on a nonverbal level that you are in control of the stage.

2. Have reverence for what you are saying. Don’t throw away phrases and end notes. If you are dancing, stop to address your audience when you sing. There is power in the contrast between motion and stillness.

3. Don’t hide and remain calm. Be present in the song. Even if you drift momentarily or get distracted, get back to the song as soon as possible. If you mess up, just keep going.
Don’t allow your audience to know that you have made a mistake, are having vocal problems, can’t hear yourself, etc. It is your job to be professional. When you stop or freeze up is when the audience notices something is not right.

4. Have an open body stance. Standing straight, shoulders down, head and jaw relaxed, and head straight forward, eyes open (focused on a point), arms relaxed and wide.

5. Smile and Stay Positive. Even the most “emo” acts need to look like they’re having a good time, because moodiness does not come over well to the audience. Let them see you are having a great time, and the effect will rub off on them. This doesn’t mean you can’t change up the feel for different songs, it just means you shouldn’t look serious the whole time you are performing.

6. Move around! Come on, don’t just stand there looking awkward! If you constantly move, even just a little bit, your motion will attract the audience’s eyes.
7. Get it down. Rehearse what you’ll be doing well enough to let go of it onstage.

8. Learn to use facial expressions and poses to go with the emotions. Be careful not to tighten your throat or do other actions that would inhibit good vocal technique! Remember, it is NOT more emotional for your audience if your eyes are closed. Your audience identifies with you through your eyes, gestures and outward expression of your inward thoughts.

9. Drink plenty of Fluids. Drink water, tea with lemon & honey, or juice. Stay away from carbonated beverages, milk and caffeine. Have a snack 1-2 hours before you preform.

10. Be sure to thank your audience! They gave you time to perform for them!


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