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Volume 68, Wednesday, August 6, 2003


Living it up

Student competes in KPRC's 'Gimme the Mic' contest

By Bridget Brown
The Daily Cougar

Frank Sinatra, Mel Torme, Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald -- these names don't exactly conjure up images of modern day music, but who says the next singing sensation has to be of the contemporary pop American Idol variety? Maybe it's time for America to bring back the true smooth voices of lounge and jazz. Senior broadcast journalism major Jay Hickman is trying to do just this by putting a little swing into KPRC-TV's Gimme the Mic Houston contest.

Hickman, a professional actor and singer, was chosen as one of the 25 finalists to compete for a Saturn Ion, and of course tons of much-needed exposure. More than 730 contestants showed up at Bar Houston last month to vie for their chance to wow a panel of five celebrity judges, including KRBE-FM's Sam Malone and the Houston Comets' Cynthia Cooper. 

"There was a great sense of community that I hadn't been expecting at the tryouts," Hickman said. "By the end of it everyone was on the dance floor singing 'Lean on Me' together."

The 25 finalists were split off into groups of five and have already taped six semifinal shows that will air on KPRC through Sept. 9. Celebrity judges scored the performers and chose the five singers let through to the finals.

Hickman chose to sing jazz a cappella during the original tryout, which may have helped him make it to the next round. That, and a whole lot of charisma, experience and charm.

"I got a chance to meet the other contestants. They were nice folks, and I found out there would be a lot of Whitney Houston and country ballads performed," Hickman said. "I stand alone in that regard, and hopefully that will be worth something."

Hickman has already showed his worth, and is no stranger to the spotlight. He has appeared in countless musicals, TV spots, voice-overs and even big budget films, such as the Houston-filmed Rushmore. This experience was helpful in getting a leg up on the other finalists that were not used to having the pressure of seven cameras pointing in their direction at once during the filming. Along with his song selection for the semifinal show, Bobby Darin's "Mack The Knife," Hickman said he was confident going into the taping.

"I felt good about my song selection, and I have experience. I wasn't sure if everyone else would have that going in," he said. "I don't imagine that a lot of them have experience with 'playing up' to the cameras." 

Hickman's professional singing and acting career has given him a creative outlet. Without it, he said, there would be a gaping lack of creativity in his life.

"I love to sing. I have an artist's heart. I like to do something to express myself whether it's singing or acting," he said. "There is such a great relationship with the audience when they really appreciate what myself and other musicians give them." 

Hickman said that by way of television he is excited to have the chance to serenade thousands of the viewing public, and of course get his name out there.

"Everyone loves to be serenaded. Everyone loves the connection," he said.

Gimme The Mic Houston airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. on KPRC, and if Hickman doesn't make it through to the finals go online at for the chance to vote him back on as the final show's wild card performer.

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