As the closing notes faded of the final performance Saturday night, the consensus was clear: The Next Big Thing had saved the best for last.
Senior Criston Anderson and Springdale, Ark. native Caleb Powers accompanied by percussionist sophomore Tucker Cowie stole the show—as well as the judges’ hearts—to be named 2012’s Next Big Thing. After their stunning performance and eloquent interlude, the duo received only positive feedback from the judges and a standing ovation from the audience.
Award-winning recording artist and celebrity judge Brittany Hargest admitted she was blown away by the duo’s performance.
“Your vocals were just a rush of buttery goodness,” Hargest told the pair. “You were born to do this. You were my favorite of the night.”
Joining Hargest on the judge’s panel were Jon Cell, manager of National Promotions for Centricity Music; Kalynn Hanson, public service director and online-personality for 101.1 KLRC and Jen Edwards, director of Worship Ministries. All were impressed by Anderson and Power’s harmonious vocals and easy stage-presence.
Despite the compliments and recognition, the band could only respond with humility. Both stated they were thankful for this opportunity and the people surrounding them.
“The first thing I thought was that God was working through us,” Powers said. “He is allowing our hearts to be in a position to work through us.”
Anderson added that he hoped the $2,000 recording contract would open doors for his and Power’s musical careers
“It’s always been my dream,” he said. “I would love to do music fulltime.”
Matthias Roberts, BLUE director and mastermind behind The Next Big Thing, said he was happy to see Anderson and Powers win.
“Everyone worked hard and deserved to win, but it was so cool to see Criston and Caleb take it away,” he said.
Roberts reported 600 people came to the event on Saturday night to see what talent John Brown had to offer. And the eight bands battled it out to ensure they were not disappointed. After the opening act, Cell predicted it would be a long night with great acts.
Juniors Allison Harper and Lindsay Butler opened the show with a pair of worship songs. The duo asked the audience to join with them in worship as they sang “Stronger” and “Lead Me.” Though the two had only been singing together since November, Hanson told them it felt like they had been performing together for years.
Freshman Lauren Townsend followed with two uplifting songs, “Hear My Prayer” and “Cast Your Burden.” The judges really enjoyed the country quality of her voice and were impressed with her ability to keep her composure when things went rough (when did things go wrong?)
Sophomore Lisa Hopper won over the judges with her endearing personality, declaring during her opening video “Barney taught me to sing.” The judges fell in love with her second song, “Bathsheba,” for its beautiful lyrics and strumming patterns. Cell told fellow judge Hargest he wanted to buy Lisa’s song.
A crowd favorite from last year, Tomten & the Fox, were the last group to perform before intermission. Group members, sophomores Jared DeFriese and Seth Kaye, held the judges captive with their unique personality. During the second song, “Honestly,” members of the audience pulled out “glowstraws” at the climax of the song.
After the intermission, The Duke of Norfolk—senior Adam Howard, and the “golden ticket” members of his band—took the stage to perform what he called “folk fusion.” The judges liked the energy and fun Howard brought in his performance as well as the audience interaction.
Sophomore Steve Sullivant then took the stage in front of the grand piano. He captured the judges with the piano intro and stunning vocals of his second song, “Dialogue.” Hargest said the song was hauntingly beautiful.
With only her guitar, a harmonica and one back-up singer, sophomore Jacqueline Tally pleased the judges with her genuine performance of “The Return” and “Until I’ve Fought for You.” Edwards told Tally her voice was “resonant” and that she loved seeing Tally’s heart in the second song.
Anderson and Powers ended the competition with the powerful and soulful performance of “Free” and “I Wanna be Like You.” Cell asked the pair if they wanted to come back to Nashville with him that night.
As emcees David Lague and Liz Phillips opened the polls for audience members to text in their vote, The Next Big Thing welcomed back last year’s winner Kacie Williams. She closed out the night with her single “Till I’m With You.”
Roberts thought The Next Big Thing has really made an impact on JBU culture.
“I don’t think many realized the extent of the talent on campus until everyone came together in one place,” he said.
Many wonder if The Next Big Thing will continue now that Roberts is handing down his title to sophomore to Chris Hembree. Roberts said students should expect the contest to continue for years to come.