UNT names its own Eagle Idol
Rodney Sherman Jr., has been singing for most of his 21 years -- with school choirs, at church, with a student group at the University of North Texas and even at San Antonio Spurs basketball games in his hometown. But Sherman, a junior history major at UNT, had not performed competitively for more than five years.
When he learned last fall that the University Program Council, a UNT student organization, was holding open auditions for "Eagle Idol2: The Search for a Mean Green Superstar," the campus' own version of "American Idol: The Search for a Superstar," he decided to try out. The competition provides cash, a five-song demo CD and other prizes to the student named Eagle Idol.
"I wanted to see if I still had it, and I sure could have used the money," he said. "Many people know that I sing and that I hardly ever pass up a chance to sing. I also thought ‘Eagle Idol' would give me more exposure."
Now Sherman, the son of Rodney and Terri Sherman of Converse, will receive exposure through the demo CD that he will record after being named UNT's Eagle Idol. Performing Smokey Norful's "I Need You Now" and Ray Charles' "I Got A Woman" at the "Eagle Idol" competition, Sherman took the top prize from seven other finalists, who were selected from more than 40 students who tried out. He also received $1,000 and a performance at Spring Fling, UNT's annual student party marking the end of the spring semester.
Angela Addkison, a junior sociology/real estate major from San Saba, took the competition's second-place prize of $500. Toni Borowczak, a graduate student in counseling from Dallas, received the third-place prize of $200, while Whitney Matthews, a sophomore from Mesquite who has not declared a major, took the fourth-place of $100.
As with Fox-TV's popular "American Idol," the audience voted to choose four students from the eight finalists, then ranked them to choose the Eagle Idol. All of the eight finalists received feedback from a panel of judges -- Amanda Earhart, winner of UNT's first "Eagle Idol" competition in 2003 and now a professional singer; Amanda Lee, a recent graduate of Kim Dawson Studios Actors Conservatory in Dallas and a working actress in the Dallas/Fort Worth area; and Mario Tarradell, a music critic with The Dallas Morning News.
Sherman said Tarradell's comments were the highlight of the competition for him.
"He said, ‘If I had a contract to sign you, I'd sign you right now,'" Sherman said. "That meant a lot to me. I've always said that if I get noticed and fame comes, I will welcome it."
Sherman said he started singing at age 2, according to his mother, but his first big memory of singing before an audience was when he was 10 years old and the San Antonio Spurs were auditioning singers.
"My fifth-grade teacher, Mr. Dean Evans, recognized my voice, and asked if he could make a videotape of me singing and send it to the Spurs. I was chosen to sing the national anthem before a game," he said.
Sherman also started piano lessons at age 10, but quit after a year.
"The rest of my piano playing has been by ear. If someone plays something, I can usually sit down and pick it up right away," he said.
He also sang with his church, Greater Evangelist Temple Church of God in Christ in San Antonio, and became minister of music during his senior year in high school. At Judson High School in Converse, he performed with Chorale, the varsity choir; and Cantate Ensemble, the show choir, traveling to New York and to London with the choirs. He sang a solo, "His Eye is on the Sparrow" at some of London's great cathedrals, including St. Paul's Cathedral.
Sherman also continued performing at Spurs' games, high school graduations and other public events. He said his biggest audience to date was 65,000 gathered at a Big 12 Athletic Conference convention at the Alamodome.
The first person in his family to attend college, Sherman chose UNT because he knew the university was internationally known for its College of Music. However, he declared a political science major instead of music.
"I wanted to be a judge," he said.
After discovering a "passion" for African-American history, Sherman switched his major to history, and now plans to teach.
But he'll also keep singing. During his first year at UNT, he joined Voices of Praise, a student organization, for his love of gospel music. He's currently the music minister at Straight Street Missionary Baptist Church in Dallas.
Sherman said he realizes his gift of singing "comes from God," so being Eagle Idol "doesn't change anything about my personality."
"The importance of my education will never be forgotten," he said. "If I got a contract tomorrow and was signed on with a top music label, I'd still get my bachelor's degree."
After graduating from UNT in 2007, Sherman plans to teach high school while earning a master's degree in history. He then plans to teach at a college or university.