Let me tell you a secret.
When it comes to being an emcee, speaker, judge, food taster or any other task that comfortably puts me in the spotlight for no good reason, I'm all for it. I am a shameless self-promoter — hey, somebody has to do it — and I pretty much jump at any opportunity to put my name out there.
I'm driven by this strange brew of ego and insecurity, but that's a discussion best suited for me and my psychologist.
Anyway, the easier the task appears to be, the more I'm interested. I'm particularly fond of requests that involve sitting. I'm not necessarily the guy to call for "Paint Your Heart Out."
So you might imagine when the Brandon Idol officials asked me to step up Saturday and judge the teen portion of its annual contest, I immediately responded, "Yes."
After all, doesn't it sound like cake? Show up for the 2 p.m. show, listen to a few kids sing, pick that one obvious winner and be out of the Brandon Elks Lodge in time for happy hour. Sweet.
Brandon Idol organizer Dave Loebig essentially told me this week I have the wrong idea. Among the teens competing in the two age categories (10-13 and 14-17) is last year's exceptional winner of the junior division. Another contestant made it through to the first round of American Idol auditions and went on to Hollywood.
Also included in the mix are two singing guitarists.
And I thought this was just some kind of glorified karaoke contest. Oops.
"I heard a good number of them at the rehearsal, and we have a bunch of talented teens," Loebig said. "Sometimes the judges do have the hardest job because they have to pick the winner. But we'll try to make it easy for you with a score sheet."
Loebig has been at the helm of this talent show since 2001 when it was first conceived as a fundraiser for honorary mayoral candidate Arlene Waldron.
"We started with the title 'Random Acts of Entertainment and Senseless Acts of Silliness,' " explained Loebig, a 47-year-old guitarist and keyboardist who once played in his high school band the Soupbonz. "At the end, it was fun, and we knew we were going to do it again."
Now the event has morphed into a multifaceted showcase that includes a battle of the bands, a song-writing contest and two portions of Brandon Idol that take place Saturday: the teen division at 2 p.m. and the adult division at 7 p.m.
Loebig crafted Momentum Festival as an umbrella name for all the various events. He hopes to continue growing the series with additional events in the years to come. Proceeds go to two charities: the Dream Factory of Florida and Achieve Tampa Bay/United Cerebral Palsy of Tampa Bay.
Two keys have helped this go beyond your typical sing-along. One is the burgeoning popularity the event generates on its own. After each contest, people come up asking how they can help make it even better.
The bigger key, however, was the addition of auditions. Now people begin trying out in January, a full four months before the actual competition. Loebig said the process draws true talents for both the teen and adult divisions and weeds out those who aren't serious.
"We've selected good singers, and we have a sound system that just fills the hall," Loebig said. "It's a hidden entertainment gem, but you have to see that to know it."
Just to make sure I understood the daunting task I'm about to take on as a Brandon Idol judge, Loebig directed me to a You Tube video of 2008 teen winner Shevonne Philidor, (www.youtube.com/watch?v=rINGRRkjSRA), who beautifully recreated Whitney Houston's rendition of I Will Always Love You.
Now I realize these aren't future local lounge singers, but kids with the potential to become true music stars. Wish me luck.
That's all I'm saying.