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Judges uphold Law

"They had a drum roll, and then they announced it, and I almost fell over."Jillian LawGrand Forks It wasn't exactly the Grammys or Oscar night. Instead of "The envelope, please," the results of North Dakota's Marketplace Talent Search were writte...

"They had a drum roll, and then they announced it, and I almost fell over."
Jillian LawGrand Forks

It wasn't exactly the Grammys or Oscar night. Instead of "The envelope, please," the results of North Dakota's Marketplace Talent Search were written in marker on a folded piece of yellow tablet paper.

Still, the winner of the first-ever competition couldn't have been more thrilled.

"They had a drum roll, and then they announced it, and I almost fell over," said Jillian Law of Grand Forks, who teaches music at Central Valley School at Buxton, N.D. "I could hear my fiance, who was sitting at a table in front of the stage, as clear as day saying, 'Oh, my God!'"

Law was one of eight regional finalists Tuesday night in Fargo at Marketplace for Entrepreneurs, an event organized annually by Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., and state Agriculture Commissioner Roger Johnson. Three of the eight state Talent Search contestants were from Grand Forks.

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Law said the eight finalists began their day at 8 a.m. in the Fargodome, running through their musical numbers with the band.

"It wasn't the greatest run-through for me," she said. "And hearing the other people was just fantastic. Everyone was really good."

After that, Law and her mother, who had flown to Fargo from Law's hometown of Erie, Pa., returned to the hotel room. There, Law practiced her song a few more times for her mom, then returned to the Fargodome to run through the finale.

The first to sing

About 1,000 people watched the competition, including at least seven of Law's students and their parents, some who wore special T-shirts and carried signs of support.

Law's competition piece was a song from musical theater, "Stars and the Moon," about a woman who marries a man who promised a rich and fancy life. The song, Law said, ends on a plaintive note: "I woke one day and looked around, and I thought, 'I'll never have the moon.'"

Law, 22, was the first contestant to sing. As she waited for her musical cue, she couldn't see the audience at all, but she wasn't nervous, she said.

"It was easy. I just felt I was on top of my game. I had a great time with it and apparently that worked out very well."

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Of the other contestants, Rachel Crooks of Grand Forks covered Carole King's 1970s hit "One Fine Day," and UND student Caleb Fritel, a Hazen, N.D., native, sang a song he wrote, "Here's to Forgetting You."

Valley City, N.D.'s Bridget Ertelt belted out a Mozart aria. Fargo North High sophomore Sara Laske rocked with an Alanis Morissette song, "Baby I Won't."

Samantha Riehl performed a ballad. A high school junior from tiny Raleigh, N.D., Riehl used to sing "Old McDonald" to the calves on her farm.

"Lucky cows, huh?" said Chuck Suchy, the Mandan, N.D., singer/songwriter and contest host who, along with Richard Torrance and his band, helped the contenders on stage.

Kelli Volk of Sherwood, N.D., and Shane Parsons of Bottineau, N.D., were the other contestants.

Judges for the contest were David Swenson, president of Makoche Recording Studio, Bismarck; Susan Morken, music teacher at Fargo Cheney Middle School; and Merrill Piepkorn, host of North Dakota Public Radio's "Hear It Now" program.

Before the judges' decision was announced, the contestants came out in the order they had performed to receive a medal and have their photos taken with Conrad and Johnson, Law said. After her name was called, some of Law's students came up to the stage to give her several long-stemmed roses.

Back at school

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On Wednesday, Law was back at Central Valley, teaching school and still trying to absorb her victory.

"My students are just thrilled," she said. "Every time I go out in the hallway today, someone is saying, 'Congratulations, Miss Law,' and everybody is asking me to sing for them." The Central Valley Boosters presented her with a flower arrangement, and she received many e-mails and other congratulations.

"The support from everyone has been so wonderful," she said.

For being North Dakota's first Marketplace Talent Search winner, Law will receive more than $10,000 in prizes, including a professional recording session with Makoche Recording Studio.

"I guess I wait to hear from the people at the recording studio," she said. "We're going to talk about putting a CD together." Law also is considering putting together and performing a show at the Central Valley School.

"I haven't really grasped how big this might be, if at all. I'm not sure where it will take me."

The article includes information from The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead.

Tobin is the Herald's arts and entertainment reporter. Reach her at 780-1134; (800) 477-6572, ext. 134; or ptobin@gfherald.com .

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