Metro-East Living

Local singer-songwriters compete in PBS contest

Two singer-songwriters from O’Fallon and one from Troy star in a new TV competition produced in the metro-east.

The first episode of “Song Stage” will be broadcast on all PBS stations in Illinois the weekend of April 15-17 and on KETC in St. Louis on June 23.

“We’ve been calling it the ‘Anti-American Idol,’” said producer and host Ryan Wiggins. “It’s not just someone getting up and singing someone else’s song. It’s allowing a performer to sing what they wrote, so audiences are judging both the song and the performer.”

Ryan, 34, of Collinsville, is co-owner of Manniversary Media, a multimedia production company based in Troy. It created “Song Stage” and taped eight half-hour episodes in September before a live audience at Alfresco Arts Center in Granite City.

All the contestants are Illinois or St. Louis residents. One episode features Courtney King and Andy Lewis, members of the O’Fallon-based band Slow Down Scarlett.

“It was really a neat experience for us because we had never been involved in anything like this before,” said Courtney, 37, of O’Fallon, who sings and plays flute.

The 5-year-old indie-rock band usually performs at restaurants, bars, festivals and parties. It plays original songs as well as covers by artists such as Men at Work, The White Stripes, Foo Fighters and B-52s.

Another “Song Stage” contestant is Paula Polfliet, of Troy, who specializes in gospel R&B. She’s performing for the first time since the death of her husband about a year ago.

“With support and encouragement from her friends and family, Paula is finally ready to once again share her music,” according to her show bio.

Other contestants are contemporary Christian singer Kenny Jamison, of Bethalto; gypsy blues rocker Erin Jo, of Whitehall; jazz vocalist Margaret Bianchetta and artistic folk musician Kevin Buckley, of St. Louis; and Northern Illinois pop singers Michael Downing and Frankie B.

“Song Stage” will air on WSIU, a Carbondale-based PBS station that covers part of the metro-east, at 9 p.m. on eight Saturdays, beginning April 16.

“KETC didn’t pick it up initially,” Wiggins said, but the station decided this week it will run two episodes each Thursday (10 and 10:30 p.m.) for four weeks beginning June 23.

Manniversary used Craigslist and social media last summer to invite singer-songwriters to enter the contest, picking eight for the show. (Courtney and Andy count as one since they’re in the same band.)

It was really a neat experience for us because we had never been involved in anything like this before.

Singer Courtney King on competing in ‘Song Stage’

Producers similarly advertised for audience members, and an estimated 100 people showed up to see all eight episodes taped in one day at Alfresco. They served as judges and texted their votes.

“With Season 1, nobody knew the name of the show or the artists, so we felt that was a pretty good turnout,” Wiggins said.

“Song Stage” contestants prepared for the taping by practicing with a house band and music coach Roy Wells, Wiggins’ business partner. They also were interviewed about their backgrounds, styles and motivations.

Courtney and Andy, 28, performed her song, “City Down,” and his song, “The Way Out.” Slow Down Scarlett lead guitarist Dylan Tucker joined the house band for that episode.

“(‘City Down’ is) a pop song and a love song,” Courtney said. “I wrote it about my relationship with my husband. We’ve been married 15 years, and we met in Chicago, so it’s about when we were dating in Chicago.”

Season 1 features no voting by TV viewers, but they’re encouraged to discuss their favorite singers and songs on social media at and

The live-audience-selected winner will be revealed in the last episode. He or she will receive studio time to record an EP and $2,500 worth of music gear. Manniversary already is planning Season 2.

“Our eventual goal is to go national, and make it a true competitor with the ‘The Voice’ and shows like it,” Wiggins said.

At a glance

  • Show: “Song Stage”
  • Format: Singer-songwriter competition with performances and interviews
  • Broadcast: First of eight episodes airs the weekend of April 15-17 on PBS stations in Illinois
  • Metro-east: Some residents can see it at 9 p.m. Saturdays, beginning April 16, on WSIU
  • St. Louis: KETC will broadcast two episodes each Thursday (10 and 10:30 p.m.) for four weeks beginning June 23
  • Information: Visit