The new voices of country music
GYMPIE girls Alice Benfer and Stephanie Ward-Wrigley are doing us proud.
Alice, 18, and Stephanie, 13, were crowned the winners of the senior and junior categories of the Voice of Urban Country Music Talent Search on the weekend, securing their place as two of this region’s most promising emerging country music artists.
They are fast making a name for themselves on Queensland’s country music talent quest circuit for their winning combination of dynamic performances and strong vocals. It’s a reflection of the high standard of music coaching in Gympie, led by the Australian Institute of Country Music and Gympie High School’s Country Music School of Excellence.
Stephanie, who only recently turned 13, was the youngest contestant in her category of the 13 to 17 years age group. The talented teen needn’t have doubted herself.
“I didn’t think I would win ... There was heaps of competition. I guess I won with my best performance,” Stephanie said.
Alice reckons it was her secret weapon that helped her take out the senior category of the talent quest, open to ages 18 and over. She was also one of the youngest in her age group, having just turned 18.
Alice made it to the finals without a single yodel and surprised judges with an “awesome” yodelling song that scored her top points to secure the win.
“This year has started off really well for me,” she said.
“This was the first Urban talent quest I have entered and the first time as a senior.
“And I won it.”
It was a similar situation for Stephanie, who competed in her new age group for the first time since turning 13.
It’s another wrung on the ladder for these rising country music stars, whose success is helping to build a national profile for Gympie as a centre for country music.
So what now for these “next big things” in Australian country music?
Stephanie has been invited to do the honours and open the Gympie Show with the National Anthem on May 20 and has already qualified for Queensland Country Music’s Champion of Champions talent competition in October.
Alice will continue to perform at gigs across Queensland with her Country Music School of Excellence band Southbound, and is expecting to record her original yodelling songs in the near future.
As winners of the Voice of Urban Country Music Talent Search, both girls received cash prizes and a guest spot at next year’s Urban festival. Their prize also includes two nights accommodation during next year’s festival and an image makeover and Alice won studio recording time and a photo shoot.