In search of a superstar at Idol competition

By By Warren Arceneaux / American Press

WESTLAKE — Justin Welch

owned the stage, the judges and his own song as he walked away the

winner of KVHP-TV’s Lake Charles Idol Search competition

at Isle of Capri on Tuesday.

More than 70 people showed up at the casino hoping to take the first step toward becoming Southwest Louisiana’s next “American

Idol” contestant.

Welch, a Moss Bluff resident, will advance to audition for show producers in Austin, Texas, next month.

The area’s best-known “Idol” contestant, Season 11 third-place finisher Joshua Ledet, announced the winner. Sulphur native

Michael Sarver, who finished 10th in Season 8, was one of the three judges and performed after the contest.

Welch sang 30 seconds of Mark Broussard’s “Rock Steady” in the first round, and made enough of an impression to be chosen

as one of the three finalists.

“My in-laws have been after me to do this for years, and I am 28 (the show’s age limit) so this was my last shot,” Welch said.

“I needed to do it since it was my last opportunity. I was pretty confident coming in.”

For the final round, when contestants were given a minute to perform, Welch chose “I Choose Life,” a song he wrote as a college


“It is about wanting to live and

thrive,” he said. “There are a lot of people who go through life without

a goal and make

poor decisions. I felt this would be a good message. After the

first round, I wasn’t thinking I was going to move on because

I heard some good singers.”

One of those was fellow finalist Hayley Masters.

“I am here doing my clinicals for school, and my supervisor told me about it and pushed me to do it,” Masters said. “It was


Masters performed Journey’s “Open Arms” in the first round and David Guetta’s “Without You” in the final round.

“The wait to hear the results after the first round was hard,” she said. “I can’t be disappointed by anything; it was a good


Lacey Blount, a longtime fan of the show, was the first contestant to take the stage, singing Deana Carter’s “Strawberry Wine”

in front of a crowd of about 80 people.

“I was shocked with all the people in

the room; I was a little nervous. But I think I did all right,” she

said. “I would give

myself an eight. I didn’t give my best shot because I was nervous.

I think the crowd liked my performance. There is some good


Music producer and filmmaker Michael McGowan, a contest judge, said the performances were impressive.

“They gave their best; they had good talent,” he said. “Justin owned it. He had that passion; he really gave himself. It’s

not just about the voice. He had that, but he had the passion behind it too. That’s what I liked about him.”