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Posted: December 10, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Residents win GCGMA awards

Honors given in country, bluegrass, gospel categories

Michelle Kim/

Great voices: Julie Redish, left, and Drew Parker both of Newton County recently won GCGMA Awards

 Three Newton County residents were recently recognized by the Georgia Country and Gospel Music Association, collecting top awards in the country, bluegrass and gospel music categories.

 April Draper, who by day works at the Covington Fire Department and by night used to sing as female lead in a couple of country and rock bands, won Entertainer of the Year and Most Promising in the traditional country female category.

 Drew Parker, a 17-year-old junior at Alcovy High School, won Male Vocalist and Entertainer of the Year in the male new gospel category, as well as CD of the year.

 Julie Redish took home awards in the female bluegrass category for Most Promising Entertainer, Vocalist of the year, and CD of the year.

 "I’m so excited that there’s more people from Covington that’s getting involved," said Redish.

 Redish and Draper are close in age and had both graduated from Newton High School, but struck up a friendship after finding each other’s Myspace page and spending time at the Covington Idol at the Sherman’s Last Burning earlier this year, which all three artists entered.

 This was Redish’s third year with the GCGMA, and she’s been able to see the group grow exponentially.

 "When I joined, there were only 40 members, and now there’s like 300," she said. "I’m more proud of these awards because I had more competition. Last year I didn’t have very much competition."

 Draper had fallen out of singing competitively after having children and settling down. She knew she had been nominated in two categories based on a recording of her Covington Idol performance, but since it was her first year entering, she didn’t go to the awards ceremony because think she had much of a chance. Redish’s husband called her from Dalton to let her know she had won.

 "I just love it," Draper said, of the experience of performing. "It’s like a heated rush when you’re on that stage in front of people. I still get butterflies. Not everyone can do this. This is something special that I feel like God gave me. It really makes me happy."

 For Parker, who has recorded several solo CDs, singing gospel is only one multiple passions he juggles along with playing baseball, drums, staying active in his church’s youth group and being a regular teenager.

 All three artists will move onto the North American Country Music Association competition at Pigeon Forge, Tenn. in March.


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