Recent Millikin University graduate Audrianna Bartholomew, of Pasadena, Calif., has been named a finalist in the 5th Annual NextGen National Competition: Finding the Voices of Tomorrow, presented by The American Pops Orchestra (APO). Bartholomew is one of 10 contestants to be selected as a finalist (including two alternates) following the semifinal event that was shared with the public through a private broadcast on Jan. 29.
The finalists were announced on Jan. 30. NextGen is a vocal competition created by APO and Music Director Luke Frazier with the purpose of identifying young aspiring vocalists from across the United States and providing them the opportunity to work with and learn from industry professionals, as well as to perform live with an orchestra.
Each year, NextGen participants compete for the chance to win a monetary prize and various paid performance opportunities. The first-place female and male winners will receive $2,000 and the second-place winners will receive $1,000. All winners will receive paid performance opportunities during APO’s 2022-23 season.
“Audri took a semester off in her second year at Millikin to compete on ‘The Voice,’ where she was a semifinalist. We were thrilled that she came back to Millikin afterwards to complete her training,” said Laura Ledford, dean of the College of Fine Arts at Millikin. “She is an impressive talent with infectious charisma, and now the skills to back it up. We are all invested in her success and wish her the very best in this competition.”
The finalists were chosen by a panel of judges as well as the virtual audience, who received a voting link following the Jan. 29 broadcast to support their favorite semifinalists. The judges were: Broadway actress Aisha Jackson, U.S. Navy Band musician Cory Parker, Metropolitan Opera soprano Brittany Renee Robinson, and Broadway director and choreographer Tara Young. The final competition will be held on March 20. “All of Audri’s professors in the Millikin School of Theatre & Dance and School of Music are happy to see her advance in this wonderful competition,” said Ann Borders, an adjunct music faculty member at Millikin who also served as Bartholomew’s voice instructor. Bartholomew, who earned a Bachelor of Arts in Musical Theatre from Millikin in Dec. 2021, was a contestant on NBC’s “The Voice” back on Oct. 2018 following an impressive blind audition. During the blind audition episode, which aired on Oct. 1, 2018, Bartholomew landed a spot on Grammy Award-winner Jennifer Hudson’s team. Bartholomew later invited Hudson onstage for an impromptu duet performance. Music has always been influential in Bartholomew’s family. She became inspired after singing in church and was influenced by her father, who is a rapper. She speaks two languages fluently and sings in six, and her big musical moment was singing Kelly Clarkson’s “A Moment Like This” at her high school graduation. “It’s an honor to be a part of this prestigious event with incredible judges and I am so grateful for the support and knowledge I’ve gained during my time at Millikin,” Bartholomew said. With a mission to promote and preserve classic American music, APO requires participants to perform pre-1970 songs and encourages them to sing lesser-known, classic pieces that demonstrate their vocal capabilities and connect audiences of all ages. APO was founded in 2015 with a mission to breathe new life into orchestral pops programming and inspire diverse audiences to discover the wealth of the material in the Great American Songbook in dynamic new ways. Seeing an opportunity to challenge the status-quo of the repertoire an orchestra performs, founder and Music Director, Luke Frazier, created The American Pops with the intent of breaking the mold of the traditional pops orchestra. This new, distinctly “American” orchestra brings together versatile musicians and reimagined programming focused around the Great American Songbook, and presents it with an approachable, fresh spin in order to engage diverse audiences. Through non-traditional orchestral settings, APO aims to deliver popular American classics to those who already know and love them, while also introducing these timeless pieces to younger generations in approachable settings.