TONASKET – It’s a fortunate person who can turn their passion into their profession.
Cierra Williams isn’t quite there yet, but when the Tonasket High School senior takes the Omak PAC stage Saturday evening for the finals of the Washington State Nashville Country Star competition, it will be a big step toward making her dream a reality.
“I adore singing and performing,” Williams said. “It is my passion and is my favorite thing to do. I’ve really felt that way my whole life.”
Williams is the lone Okanogan County contestant left in the field of 15 that will perform for up to $1,500 in prize money Saturday, March 31, beginning at 6 p.m. She was chosen out of a pool of three qualifying rounds as one of 36 quarterfinalists and survived as the field was cut to 25 semifinalists, then to the 15 finalists.
High school students perform country, country gospel, or 50s/60s rock and roll in the statewide competition.
This is the first vocal competition Williams has seen through to the end. She entered the Nashville Star last year, but couldn’t participate in the final rounds as she traveled to Disneyland with the high school band.
“I really didn’t have a particular goal in mind (when entering),” she said. “I know that I love singing and I love performing and this seemed like a good chance to do that. It wasn’t until I had actually made it to the qualifying round that I knew there was a cash prize for the top placers.”
Though competition has been a new thing for Williams, performing in front of others isn’t novel experience for her. Thanks to encouragement from her family and classmates, she’s had plenty of opportunities to take the stage.
“I was in honors choir in elementary school and performed in community theater musicals and church musicals from a young age,” she said. “My dad recognized my talent and had me singing for his friends and co-workers at every opportunity available.
“At one point my older sister Summer was taking singing lessons (when Cierra was about seven), so every day when she would come home she would teach me everything she learned.
“I didn’t really start singing on my own until we moved to Tonasket where I found more opportunities to sing. I was encouraged by my peers — especially Melissa Dale who was in choir with me my freshman year — and a ton by my older brother, Shalen.”
She said her biggest fans are her entire family, “But Shalen was the one who really pushed me to branch out in my singing.”
Because of her stage experience, Williams said didn’t have to deal with her nerves too much until the latter stages of the competition.
“In the qualifying and semifinal rounds… the songs I performed were both songs I was comfortable with,” she said. “For the semifinal round I sang ‘Gunpowder and Lead’ by Miranda Lambert which though I had performed it once before, I still felt was a difficult song for me.
“In general, though, I think my nervous button is broken.”
Williams said she’ll be challenged by her selections for the final round, when she’ll perform “a song that is a little different for me, as well as a song I am used to.
“I’m hoping my friends come to support me that can, not only because the person with the largest fan base wins a prize, but because I love the support people bring when they come to events to watch me sing.”
And if Williams should win one of the top prizes, she already plans to use it to invest in furthering her dream of a singing career.
“I need it to be able to buy a car, which would help me get around to kick start my career in music,” Williams said.
“My plan is to explore the larger music community and try to make my living as a professional singer. That has always been my dream and I am going to do my best to follow it.”