Nick Barnett raised his trophy in triumph to the cheers of hundreds of Shelbyville High School students on Thursday.
The senior won the first talent show at William L. Garrett Gymnasium in front of close to 400 students who paid $5 for tickets. Around $1,900 was raised from the event and will be given to Shelby County United Fund For You (SCUFFY).
“Not too bad for the first time and not having it open to the public,” said Mark Hensley, whose entrepreneurship class organized the event.
The entrepreneurship class came up with the idea as a final project. The students were in charge of planning and operating the first-year event, which Hensley hopes can continue going forward.
However, because the class is available every other year, he said he might give it to the student council moving forward.
Barnett, an aspiring rap artist, won after performing a song he wrote. He is releasing his first self-produced rap album in August online through the Apple Store and Spotify.
While he had experience performing as an actor on stage in the past, he said he had never performed music in front of an audience.
“I’ve never performed music and been myself around people like that so I did not think I would win at all,” he said.
He said he started rapping in the ninth grade and found that he enjoyed it.
“I realized that I really loved making rap music so I kept going with it and got better and better,” he said.
The show featured a variety of performers, from singers to pianists to a trombone quartet.
Barnett was one of two rappers to perform.
The other, sophomore Raegan McNeely, was a fan favorite, getting a standing ovation after his performance. He finished in third place.
One of the judges called him an “amazing young Eminem.”
The second-place finisher, junior McKenna Hall, sang Whitney Houston’s “Run to You.” She, too, received a standing ovation.
“She’s a rock star,” Hensley said the following day of Hall. “She’s going to be a star some day. Not many people can sing Whitney Houston. She definitely pulled it off. It was pretty fantastic.”
There were also two ukulele performances, a trombone quartet, two pianists, a guitarist who performed an original song and a cup stacker.
Four judges dressed up as different celebrities, such as Billy Ray Cyrus and President Donald Trump, and gave short critiques after each performer was finished.
At the end of the show, the students in attendance had the opportunity to vote for the best performer using Google Classroom.
Hensley said some of Shelbyville’s talented students decided not to participate, possibly out of fear of performing in front of a large crowd. But Thursday’s show might have changed their mind.
“We had some really talented kids who wanted to perform,” he said. “I think the kids (who decided not to) saw it and said ‘Wow. I should have done it.’”
He said he might turn the talent show into a performance night in the winter to open it to the public.
“I thought it turned out well,” he said. “The kids in (the entrepreneurship) class were really pumped.”