MOUNT VERNON — If Knox County isn’t the new Nashville, it’s not for lack of trying. In addition to the predominance of country music heard at local events, numerous area musicians have been competing this year in the Colgate Country Showdown, a nationwide competition which starts with local heats, continues with state rounds, then goes on to regional semifinals and national finals. Such local performers as Katty Whomp Us, Toby May and Brittany Roberts competed in the local competition in Newark this summer, and Becka McCarthy took her shot at competing Saturday night during the Erie County Fair in Sandusky.
“I love performing and I love the lights,” McCarthy said Friday night, after coming offstage from her performance during the Knox Idol competition, held on the square as part of the Dan Emmett Music & Arts Festival. She also enthused about the very supportive crowd, which bolstered her energetic performance, prompting her to dance around the stage when she wasn’t singing.
McCarthy is a pupil of Nashville professional Yvonne Sanson, who herself is the daughter of longtime Nashville pro Darell Sanson. Both Sansons now live in Knox County and teach music, passing along professional tips to youths. While McCarthy has only been taking lessons on how to master country stylings, she has been performing and singing since she was little, according to her mother, Julie Koontz of Mount Vernon.
Koontz said her daughter, who turned 18 in July, will be going to college to become a teacher, but that she’s not going to pass up any chances she can get to try launching a professional music career. To that end, she works daily on singing, playing guitar, rehearsing popular hits by Taylor Swift and Dolly Parton, among others, and working on her own original songs, too.
The country music angle is a more recent development, an interest that McCarthy picked up from her stepfather.
“My husband introduced us all to country music, and turned all my kids into little hillbillies,” Koontz said with a laugh, adding that country was now her favorite, too.
Koontz is strongly supportive of her daughter’s activities and tries to help present her with opportunities to realize her dreams through performing music, but she tries to do that without becoming a pushy, overbearing “stage mom.” Practice has come to her through previous Knox Idol competitions and the Top Flight Teen contest in Dayton, as well as school and other singing outlets.
Watching from the wings can be hard for a mother.
“I’m usually a nervous wreck,” Koontz said, “because you want your child to do well.”
She added that the whole family is very proud, because Becka is at home on the stage and clearly enjoys the storytelling aspects of country music, even if that means the songs have a lot more words than the average pop ditty.
“They’re not like pop songs which just have 15 or 20 words and they repeat them over and over again,” Koontz said.
McCarthy was one of 12 finalists among the 50 who auditioned for the north central Ohio Colgate Country Showdown. Their final round came Saturday night at the Erie County Fair in Sandusky. Although McCarthy did not win, it was an exciting learning experience for her, Koontz said during a follow-up telephone call Sunday.
“There was competition of the highest caliber,” Koontz said, “and Rebecca was right there with them.”