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.