Third time’s the charm for Oldham Icon winner

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Teen who has appeared on ‘Idol’ wins

By Tracy Harris

After three years of trying, one local singer finally nabbed the Oldham Icon crown.


Brandy Neelly, a North Oldham High School junior, won the annual singing contest with her rendition of “Up To The Mountain.”

Judges evaluated 30-second acapella auditions Friday night and 16 singers returned for Saturday’s final round of competition.

Neelly, 17, competed in the past two competitions and finished second last year.

“I feel like I have really worked hard each year to make myself be better and better,” she said. “It feels like an accomplishment to finally win.”

Alvin MacWilliams, executive director of the Oldham County Schools Arts Center, served as one of three judges.

MacWilliams used his musical knowledge to evaluate singers during the finals, giving tips and critiques when someone’s sound wasn’t right.

Contestants ranged from 14 and up, performing a mix of country, gospel and pop songs.

Nelly has returned to Oldham Icon the past two years fresh from trips to Hollywood to compete in “American Idol.”

“It’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve been back and I sang a song I was really comfortable with,” she said of handling the two competitions.

This year, she made it to Hollywood week with about 300 other contestants. She outlasted 200 of them but was cut just before the next round sent 70 contestants to Las Vegas. Her St. Louis audition this year earned one of the show’s famous golden tickets, but after two years, it might be time for a break, she said. Neelly might take a year off and wait until she’s a little older — although she wants to try other singing shows, like “The Voice” and ”The X Factor,” too.

She said she would like to learn to play the guitar, which she believes could help her musically.

Neelly performs with friend Stephanie Gilizan in a duo called She’s Not My Daughter.

Collin Jackson earned second place and Hannah Estes third. Other contestants included Lisa Sarno, Joel Jackson, Travis Bishop, Kinsey Bright, Jennifer Hancock, Shelby Shaw, Rose Marie Rivera, Mike Payne, Nick Curcio, Melissa Crabtree, Lisa Mortenson-Udy, Chelsea Bear and Tyanna Rivera.

Judges included MacWilliams, The Era Publisher Tony Cotten and Huntington Learning Center Crestwood Director Sarah Rapley.