Seniors Heather Wood­house and Jake Coonradt play at Hillsdale Idol Unplugged.


Against fierce com­pe­tition from fellow student and town members, Hillsdale College student band The Wineboxes took home first place at Hillsdale Idol Unplugged.

On Thursday night, res­i­dents of Hillsdale County, stu­dents and alumni of Hillsdale College, and youth from the Hillsdale County School of the Arts gathered at the banquet hall at Johnny T’s Bistro on South Street to perform and listen to live music. This second annual event, play­fully named Hillsdale Idol Unplugged, fea­tured a wide range of per­formers, who com­peted to win mon­etary prizes up to $250. Pro­ceeds from ticket sales went to support Hillsdale County School of the Arts’ Summer String Fes­tival, a summer camp for high school stu­dents in the area who play string instru­ments.

Stu­dents of HCSA also par­tic­i­pated in the music com­pe­tition, playing a selection of songs including Coldplay’s “Par­adise.”

Abigale Bates, a member of HCSA, said she felt the per­for­mance went well. She added that she had been prac­ticing twice a day the week leading up to the per­for­mance, and at least half an hour every day prior to that.

“I liked all of it, and it was pretty awesome that all my friends came,” Bates said.

Hillsdale Alumni Calvin Stockdale and Katie Stockdale returned for another per­for­mance this year as well, this time using only banjo and vocals. Calvin Stockdale’s college band, Hilltop Moon­shiners, played at Cen­tral­hal­la­palooza a few times during his school years, in addition to coffee house per­for­mances, before wooing his now-wife Katie Stockdale by taking apart his banjo, and showing her how it worked.

Though San Diego-native Katie Stockdale said she was not ini­tially inclined to the more Southern style of music, that has changed since knowing Calvin Stockdale.

“Now it’s kind of our thing, it’s what we like to sing,” Katie Stockdale said.

Once the Stock­dales got married, they said they began playing music together for fun. After placing in last year’s Hillsdale Idol Unplugged com­pe­tition, the biggest feedback they received were requests for more banjo music.

“This year we went out on a limb, and did all banjo and two vocals, which is a pretty risky thing to do,” Stockdale said.

Though they did not place this year, Calvin Stockdale added that his wife Katie Stockdale makes singing together fun.

“It’s one thing to sing by yourself, but if you can do harmony, you’ve just created some­thing together that’s now unique,” Calvin Stockdale said.

Among other per­formers were Big Cat and the Modern Cruisers, com­posed of Hillsdale College seniors Jacob Coonradt and Heather Wood­house, who per­formed two original songs with flute, guitar and har­monica. Despite his pick breaking midway through the second song, Coonradt con­tinued to play, and the duo won third place.

“I like that col­le­giate band name,” Emcee and Hillsdale Alumna Lauren Fink, ‘07, said, laughing. “That’s what the Great Books do to you, folks.”

Hillsdale Alumni Andrew Fink and Aaron Johnson, ‘06, whose band, Hello Central, won second place, joked that none of their songs were very pretty, but kept the audience laughing with a hearty ren­dition of “Roly Poly.” They also played some classic Van Mor­rison songs.

Hillsdale College Pro­fessor of Psy­chology Collin Barnes, one of the judges of the com­pe­tition, described the decision process for the winners as rel­a­tively easy.

“There was some debate about second and third place, but we were just floored by everyone’s per­for­mances,” Barnes said. “They were excellent, and really show­cased the ability of the folks in the local music scene. We’re just happy to enjoy the talents and the abil­ities of the folks in the area.”

First place went to Hillsdale College student band, The Wineboxes. They said their song choices were a dif­ferent style than what they usually play, since the talent show was specif­i­cally unplugged.

“We chose ones that we could put in an acoustic envi­ronment and make it work,” said gui­tarist junior Ryan Burns.

Burns added that The Wineboxes enjoyed playing for the greater Hillsdale com­munity.

“It feels great to have come out and played an event that we could interact with the com­munity in, and given all the talent of the people who came before us, either from the com­munity or Jake Coonradt, they played absolutely mar­velously,” Burns said. “I’m not sure that we deserved to win, but it feels very nice to have done it.”

He added that The Wineboxes already have plans to cel­e­brate their victory.

“We will be having a party, where we buy wine boxes and hope­fully drink them all,” Burns said.