HAMILTON - Two Hamilton High School Future Farmers of America (FFA) Chapter members sung their way into the Top 15 in the National FFA Talent competition in October.
Sophomore Josie Beth Jones, 15, daughter of Danny and Juli Jones, and junior Anna Kate Warner, 16, daughter of Chris and Deanna Warner, competed in the talent competition during the 91st National FFA Convention and Expo in Indianapolis, Ind., which took place Oct. 24-27.
The two Hamilton students performed “Rich” by Maren Morris and appeared on national television during the semi-final portion of the competition.
According to the national FFA web page, nearly 70,000 attended the convention. The Hamilton FFA Chapter was represented by eight students led by Hamilton FFA Ag Advisor Kristin Nunley.
Jones and Warner say that they were just participants at the national convention last year, where they watched other FFA members from across the nation compete in the talent competition.
Jones and Warner say that they turned to each other during the competition and said, “We need to do this.”
Leading up to the conference, the two were required to submit an audition to qualify to compete.
Nunley said that more than 150 talent acts applied for the competition across the U.S., only 48 were chosen to compete in Round 1 during the convention—only 15 made it to Round 2.
Only three participants were chosen for the final round.
Round 2 of the competition took place at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse, home of the Indianapolis Pacers, before a crowd of about 10,000. It was also broadcast nationally on RFD-TV.
Jones and Warner said that they competed against other musical groups, such as fiddlers and a visually-impaired piano player (who won the competition). They also said two river dancers competed.
“It was great learning experience,” Jones said. “We were nervous for a short time before we performed, but once we stepped on the stage, it was all gone and we just did what we practiced.
“It was an incredible feeling to perform in front of that many people.”
After the experience, Jones and Warner say that they feel a “crazy new sense of motivation” to improve and perform.
The two say that they are excited and all on board with FFA. They hope that their success helps to bring more participation in their local chapter.
Nunley says that National Talent requires students to lead themselves, think professionally and work with schedules and time management.
“They treat these kids like professionals,” Nunley said. “They tell you where and when to be to perform and entertain and it requires student-leadership to make that happen.”
Nunley said Jones and Warner performed as many as five times during the week—twice in competition and three times providing entertainment before various seminars.
The duet’s first performance together was last year, with the local Chris Williams Band at Fajita Grill in Hamilton.
Jones said that she grew up around a very musical environment and has probably been singing since birth.
The Hamilton junior is also one of four members in the locally based country music group, “Crossing Dixie.”
Warner said she jumped into music with vocal lessons at Alysse Nicolle’s School of the Arts. She also said that performing in community theater at the Pastime Theatre in Winfield has also given her a lot of musical experience.
Jones currently has plans to attend Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn., after high school.
Though not all the details have been pieced together yet, Warner says that she is hoping to become a mechanical engineer.
The two students said they are very thankful for Nunley and Hamilton teacher Chad Williams for their support.
They also thanked all those who were supporting them from back at home during the competition.
“We’re going to be competing next year, and we’re going to win,” Jones and Warner said.
Nunley says that there is spiking interest and activity in the local FFA Chapter.
The local chapter first branched out to attend and compete in the national convention in 2016. Nunley says that the chapter competed in the national Environmental and Natural Resources Career Development Event. That year, they ranked 10th.
Nunley actually was a part of FFA at Red Bay High School, where she performed in the string band. She said that performing in state and national competitions had a large impact on her life.
“Now, I’m getting the chance to give that experience back to these kids,” Nunley said.
The Hamilton teacher says she hopes that Jones’ and Warners’ journey breaks the stereotypes associated around FFA.
“FFA helps produce future leadership and gives students a unique skill set for whatever life direction you go,” Nunley said.
See complete story in the Journal Record.