Top vocalists have different stories, same passion for singing songs

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 SHEPHERDSVILLE -- They all have different stories but one thing in common—a love for music.

Recently 16 people competed to become Bullitt County Vocalists of Year sponsored by the Bullitt County Arts Council. And three came out on top.

In the adult category Nichols resident Matthew Armstrong was the winner.

The 24-year-old said music has always been a part of his life.

“I started singing when I was five years old at a little church my uncle used to pastor at,” he said.

Armstrong said he has about seven pastors in his family and a good amount of the rest is musically involved in some way whether it’s singing in the choir or playing an instrument.

His genre of choice is gospel and country so it’s no surprise his song selection for the competition was “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”

This was his second time entering the contest. He won the teen category in  2009.

Armstrong said he might see a future in music once the industry bounces back, but until then he’ll continue practicing every day and singing at church and weddings.

Through his music, he hopes to inspire people to “do bigger and better things with their life.”

He said music has helped him get through some tough times in his life, specifically the death of his father about five years ago.

Armstrong said his favorite song is probably the one he receives most requests for: “It is Well with Soul.”

“It’s an old church hymn and I just feel relieved after I sing it,” he said.

Armstrong said his favorite artist is gospel singer TaRanda Greene because “she lives and breathes her music.”

Teen winner Felicity Burkhead is racing to the top.

The 15 year-old began singing when she was about six years old, but she just began singing publicly about a year ago.

Burkhead said she gravitates toward country music listening to artists like Shania Twain and Martina McBride.

“I just liked the sound,” said the Brooks resident.

At the contest she sang, “You Ain’t Woman Enough (To Take My Man)” by Loretta Lynn.

“I felt like it would make me stand out more,” she said.

The North Bullitt sophomore also said she taught herself how to play the guitar about a year ago.

Former teachers of hers from Hebron Middle encouraged her to enter the contest this year. She missed it last year because she was visiting her grandparents in Florida.

She said she’s always looking for that next step to further her career in music.

She’s tried out for talent shows such as The X Factor and The Voice. She has also sang at Mike Linnig’s Music Fest and placed third  at the Greensburg county fair two years ago, which qualified her for the Coca-Cola Talent Classic at the state fair.

“I want to be a country music star.. that’s my dream,” she said.

Burkhead said she loves music because she loves being onstage and hearing the crowd cheer.

“It’s my home,” she said.

Burkhead said she used to get nervous before singing when she was younger but not anymore.

“It was what I was born to do, I think,” she said.

It’s hard for her to book gigs since she is young, but she regularly sings when she can at local restaurants and sometimes with local country singer Doug Pinson.

Pre-teen winner Seth Tomes hopes to one day be a wedding singer like his dad.

The 11-year-old from Mount Washington, who also likes to sing gospel, sang his favorite song “Fool’s Gold” by the Gaither Vocal Band at the competition. In fact, he only found out about the competition the day of.

Tomes calling to music began at the early age of three.

“I like to sing because it makes me happy and other people happy,” said the sixth grader at Valor Traditional Academy.

Tomes said his some of his favorite artists include Elvis Presley and Rascal Flatts.

Since his start, he has sung at the Lions Club and with bluegrass artist Ralph Stanley Jr.

He also enjoys visiting his uncle at Park Terrace and singing to him.

This was his first time participating in a singing competition.

“When you first do it, it feels great and you’re not shy anymore,” Tomes said.

This was the seventh year for the contest. The competition was held during the Bullitt County Fair.