At 7 years old, a lot of kids are energetic and loud around their friends, but put them in front of a crowd of people and they clam up. Not Snoqualmie Elementary School student Shaye Hodgins. In fact, instead of cowering and trying to hide, Shaye becomes even more energetic. And she loves to sing. That’s how she won the Jr. Battle of the Idols title at the Puyallup Fair Sept. 16.
When asked about the “battle” and how it felt to compete at the Puyallup Fair, Shaye, bouncing with excitement on the couch in her mother Cindy Hodgins’ fifth-grade classroom at Snoqualmie Elementary School, answered without hesitation.
“It was very good,” said Shaye. “It was exciting.”
At the competition, Shaye sang “Born to Entertain” (an off-Broadway selection by Ruthless) to a huge crowd that included seven members of her own family. The song was a perfect choice for her.
“It was very beltish,” said Shaye. “I like belting.”
“It was age appropriate,” Cindy added. “It wasn’t about falling in love.”
Shaye’s outfit also contributed to her dynamic performance. The second-grader wore a skirt with an applique of a kitten with a ball of yarn around the side, a bright pink shirt and matching tights paired with black shoes. She wanted to wear a bright pink “froofy” dress, but decided not to in the end.
“I didn’t want to make it over the top,” Shaye said.
“We wanted her to look like a little girl,” said Cindy.
Ultimately, Shaye’s performance was excellent, according to Wanda Boe, special projects coordinator for the Si View Metropolitan Parks District.
“She was incredible,” said Boe. “She has such great enthusiasm for being on stage. Her personality just shines through on stage. She really won the audience over by the end of her song.”
Shaye did so well that the master of ceremonies asked for her autograph after her performance. It was partly just to be funny, but it happened before the judges had even made their comments, Boe said.
There were other contestants who had beautiful voices and strong abilities, too, but it was Hodgins’ stage presence that made her stand out, she said.
The competition process began in January when Cindy noticed a blue form for the Sno-Valley Idol contest held at the Si View Community Center in North Bend in the elementary school’s Wednesday take-home packet.
Cindy didn’t realize it was a competition right away, but thought it was the perfect opportunity for kids to sing in front of an audience.
Shaye filled out the form and performed in the competition, which took place in March. She competed against 11 other youths who were 15 years or younger.
“It was part of the ‘Family Night’ program,” said Boe. “They each sang one song. The judges picked the top three, then the audience voted for one of the top three to be the winner.”
Shaye won the competition. The win allowed her to compete at the Puyallup Fair in the Jr. Battle of the Idols against six other children who were 15 years or younger, all winners of their own competitions.
Although the Battle of the Idols is familiar to many, this was the first year for the junior version of the competition. Again, Shaye won with flying colors. Her reward was $1,000.
“I got a big white check,” Shaye said.
Her success in the competitions elated her family, who hears her singing all the time. She sings everywhere, and constantly, Shaye said. She even hums during class.
Her favorite song is “Tomorrow” from the Broadway production of “Annie,” which is no surprise considering her participation as Molly in the Snoqualmie Falls Forest Theater production of “Annie” during the summer. Hodgins did have to audition for the part, but got it easily.
“‘Annie’ kind of fell in our laps,” Cindy said. “Other parents are very serious about promoting [their children].” The Hodgins aren’t quite as serious. They just plan to take advantage of local opportunities. “[Si View Metropolitan Park District] has amazing programs.”
When Shaye got the part of Molly, she practiced hard with her mother, older sister Shila and voice teacher Nancy Bos.
“I just pay the bills,” joked her father, Scott Hodgins.
“She’s very talented,” Shaye said of her sister. “She helps when Mom’s too busy.”
Shila, 14, who is in a band called Social Insecurities, helped Shaye practice her singing by playing her electric guitar and going through lines with her.
Shaye had a great time playing Molly, and made such good friends with the other “orphans” in the play that several of them went to the fair to show their support during her performance.
In addition to the prize from the Jr. Battle of the Idols, Shaye was paid for her part as Molly. Her parents made her save some of the money she earned for college, but she does get to spend a little bit.
“I would choose candy, clothes and girl stuff,” Shaye said.
The Puyallup Fair was the last competition for Shaye right now, but she wants to keep competing in future contests when she hears about them. She’s already started dreaming of trying out for American Idol when she turns 16. Though her parents aren’t sure about that, they are very supportive of her.
“We’re very proud of Shaye,” Cindy said. “We’re grateful that lots of family and friends came to support her. We’re just kind of surprised by who she is. She’s her own little self.”
“It’s a shock to see your child in front of hundreds of people and being comfortable,” Cindy continued. “We’ll learn how to handle it and allow her to keep singing and not get carried away.”