Nelson is new 2008 Starquest winnerOn Dec. 6, finals were held at the State Theater in Eau Claire for the fifth annual “Starquest” vocal competition.
On Dec. 6, finals were held at the State Theater in Eau Claire for the fifth annual “Starquest” vocal competition.
Out of 10 finalists in the ages 14 to 21 category, Marisa Nelson, age 14 and a freshman at Ellsworth High School, took first place. Her impeccable performance of Sarah Bareillis’s “Gravity” was both moving and beautiful.
“I was up against some very talented vocalists, including a classically trained opera singer who was incredible, so I didn’t think I had much of a chance”, Nelson said. “When they called my name, I just stood there for a second or two with my mouth open in complete shock!”
Starquest was an upscale, prestigious event hosted by Miss Wisconsin, who also performed two songs of her own. The competition was judged by professional talent scouts from Minneapolis, White Bear Lake, Minn., and Eau Claire.
Nelson has been performing since age six, when she played one of the children in “The King and I” at the St. Croix Valley Summer Theater. She finished up that summer by singing a song from the “Little Mermaid” at the Pierce County Fair talent show, taking second place.
She says, “I will never forget that summer, with every day either being busy with play rehearsal or practicing for the fair and I loved it!”
She’s gone on to win first place at the fair and second place one more time. She’s performed in the semi-finals at the Minnesota State Fair talent competition for the last four years, sang the national anthem at last year’s Pierce County Fair demolition derby, and other sporting events.
Competing in Red Wing’s “Vocal Star Challenge” in 2005 was a highlight; however, she wasn’t able to compete again because they increased the age limit to 16.
Winning school talent shows, receiving a perfect score at last year’s schools’ solo ensemble, singing for weddings, funerals, benefits and winning karaoke contests are all parts of her growing musical experiences. Having played one of the lead roles as Veruca Salt in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and being cast in “Grease” at the Spring Valley Stagehands Theater in the last few years has reinforced her passion for the theater.
Nelson has had a lot of support and encouragement from family and friends over the years, being the proud daughter of Larry and Naomi Nelson, but remembers the late Georgia Menk as her musical mentor and biggest inspiration. Menk recognized her talent and love for music early on and, as music director for her church, worked with her on her singing and gave her many opportunities to share that gift through many vocal solos, not just in her church but neighboring ones as well. She encouraged Nelson to study piano, which she taught her for three years before passing this past June.
Nelson plans to continue her musical path through high school and college and, hopefully, will have a career someday in the performing arts.
Cassie Quinn, an 11-year-old sixth grader at Spring Valley Elementary School, was the runner-up in Starquest’s 13 and under category, according to information from the Eau Claire Children’s Theatre. She performed “Only Hope.”
The winners and runners-up received prize packages from area businesses.