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Could I be a 2011 Fargo Star competition judge?

To the editor:

Last weekend I made a trip to Fargo to support an Ottertail resident competing in this year's 'Fargo Star.'

The Fargo Star competition was nothing short of disappointing. While some may think I am referring to the talent that was there that night, I'm not-even though a few of the contestants were "out there" to say the least. My beef lies with the poor execution of this singing competition, or better yet, popularity contest. (Side note: Congratulations to this year's winner, Brett Pauly. He was actually in my personal top three for the evening.)

After attending the competition there were a few things I noticed. Upon walking in you were handed a ballot. The idea that each person gets one ballot is great. With these ballots, you didn't have to fill anything out. You just drop it in the box of the person you are voting for, and that helps draw support for that particular artist.

Now, I originally thought that was a good idea-until later in the show when a friend of mine witnessed something on a trip to the bathroom. To her surprise, a large stack of extra ballots was sitting out in the lobby unattended. After having come back from the bathroom she said, "I could have just taken a small stack of those ballots. Why don't they have anyone watching them?"

I too was thinking the same thing because, you see, in Fargo Star, it has almost nothing to do with how well you sing, but rather how many people you can get to show up. So, in short, it's a popularity contest. And if you can't sing well, that doesn't really matter, because if you can get enough people there, you can win.

I heard this complaint from five different people that night, who all either went out to their car for something or left to the bathroom, and every single person noticed the exact same thing: a huge pile of ballots, and no one watching them. Am I suggesting that the voting was inaccurate? Of course I am. Those ballots were the only thing important about the night. The fact that they were left on a table unattended is unbelievably irresponsible.

My second concern is the judges. I certainly assumed that the judges' thoughts and evaluation would have equated into the outcome of the competition, but I'm actually glad it didn't. Now, while I congratulate the winner of the 2009 Fargo Star competition, I have absolutely no idea why she was a judge or why any of the people up there were judges. The judges' comments were absolutely ridiculous, comparing one contestant to Whitney Houston (laughable) and asking for another contestant's phone number.

I felt like there were three Ellen DeGeneres up there who knew nothing about music, and had no clue what they were doing. It would be a stretch to say that even one percent of what they had to say carried any weight at all.

Now, onto the gentleman who was up there, Mr. Matt Gasper (calling him a gentleman is a big stretch). He was focused primarily on coming up with some clever way to slam the contestants; it was simply pathetic. I can only assume that he was attempting to be just like Simon from American Idol, but at least Simon knows what in the world he's talking about. There was no constructive criticism and no real useful praise from any of the judges that night. Any feedback that the contestants received was void of anything useful.

Now, I myself am a singer and violinist. I have recorded a violin instrumental album, helped to produce four albums, traveled around the country and overseas doing music, and have spent over 16 years doing all things music related. I have had the privilege of being surrounded by amazing musicians for the past five years of my life. I am saying none of this to brag or to shower myself with praise; because at the end of the day, there are a huge number of musicians who are different from me and more skilled than I am.

I'm saying these things because I would like to replace a judge from this year's competition for next year's competition. To the Fargo Star organizers: If you'd like a judge who has the ability to recognize talent, knows what he's listening to, and is capable of giving the contestants real, useful feedback that would help to further these contestants in the future, give me a shout.

I'm unable to simply give fluffy and sound bite feedback, because the honest side of me will always win. While it would be my goal to encourage, it would also be my goal to see these contestants leave with something other than useless words and disappointment if they did not win the competition.

So, as long as all of the judges are new and actually have something useful and productive to say, and so long as you reconstruct and rethink how the Fargo Star is selected-by making it something other than a simple popularity contest-I would love the opportunity to be a judge for the 2011 competition.

Thank you,

Coty Sloan