Faith Higgins sings “At Last,” by Etta James during the Gig Harbor Kiwanis Star Search. The Key Peninsula teenager took first prize. Photo by Marsha Hart

She had practiced the song with her voice coach many times, and she felt ready. There were 145 people waiting to be entertained, and each contestant brought a different style and talent to the stage of The Fraternal Order of Eagles in Gig Harbor during the first Gig Harbor Kiwanis Star Search April 18.

Faith Higgins, the only hopeful from the Key Peninsula, wowed the judges and the crowd with her talent and walked away with a $500 prize.

As Higgins waited in the green room for her turn in front of the three judges, the 18-year-old Peninsula High School senior talked about how talented the other contestants were.

“Krista is so great,” she said of Krista Curry, who will graduate this year from Tacoma School of the Arts.

Higgins waited. She was eighth of the 10 acts to perform.

“I’m going to sing ‘At Last,’ by Etta James,” she said. “I really like it.”

Tall, confident, yet a bit demure, Higgins surprised the crowd as she belted out the first notes of the song in beautiful rendition of “At Last.”

Back in the green room she said she thought she did well, and got some compliments on her way down the hallway, but knew the others were very good as well. She was nervous.

Higgins has taken opera voice lessons with Christina Kowalski Holien for three years. She has been in several musicals, and said she wants to make music her career. She won Best Supporting Actress last year at the 5th Avenue High School Musical Theatre Awards, and was nominated as Student of Distinction in drama and fine arts this year. She is starring as Ruth Sherwood in Peninsula’s production of the Tony Award winning show, “Wonderful Town.”

The three judges boasted resumes to challenge anyone’s questions of whether they were qualified to fill the seats.

Key Peninsula resident and actor William Michael Paul was one of the judges. He has been in films such as “What Just Happened,” with Robert De Niro and Bruce Willis, and has appeared in many commercials and on billboards. Dallas Dixon has a background in dance as a choreographer and artistic director, and Paul Schultz studied musical conducting at the International Bachacademie in Stuttgart, Germany.

The top three acts were chosen by the judges, each performed a second time, and the audience voted by ballot for the winner.

Higgins made it to the final three with Curry and The Glory Girls, a six-woman singing group from Chapel Hill Presbyterian Church, and was ultimately chosen by the audience as the winner.
Higgins could barely contain her excitement as she talked about her win and her plans for the $500 prize.

“I did not expect it,” she said. “Everyone was so talented and I got to know all of them back stage. I wasn’t really thinking about the money at all, but I will spend it either on more voice lessons or dance lessons. I need that for my theater background.”

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