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Helping Idol hit a winning note
Marlene Scarborough handles operations for the Manteca Idol. - photo by HIME ROMERO

For as long as she can remember, music has always been a part of Melanee Scarborough’s life.

What started as classical training in the flute quickly blossomed into a love of just about every instrument that she could get her hands on – teaching herself the basics during her spare time and developing a deep love and appreciation of music in all forms.

It would eventually lead her to a stint as a publicist for Modesto-based band Flying Blind that gained critical acclaim when their hit song “Smokescreen” ended up on the American Pie 2 soundtrack after they received a record deal.

But for the last two years Scarborough has been an integral part of helping grow Manteca Idol into the competition that it is today – being brought in as a committee member last year by the Talcott family and eventually taking over the role of Director of Operations for the contest’s current run.

For Scarborough, combining her love for music with getting a front row seat to observe some of the best talent that Manteca has to offer was a match made in heaven.

“I think that music is important in so many different ways,” Scarborough said. “It’s something that opens your eyes to so many different things, and it’s something that resonates in your soul – whether it’s music that you’re hearing live, music that you’re playing yourself, or music that you’re writing.

“Unfortunately we live in an age when music programs are going away in schools, and for a lot of kids they turn to those band and music programs as family – once that goes away then they’re losing a piece of their family that they can never get back.”

After joining the Idol committee in 2008 after the competition had already begun, Scarborough set her sights on the next year when a change of venue would provide a fresh start for a Boys and Girls Club Fundraiser that some felt had already ran its course.

So with the rest of the committee – members like Jeff Hannon, Michelle Robinson, and Anne Talcott, they stripped down the format and rebuilt a contest that would be both fresh and unique and would also separate the younger contestants from the older singers for the first time.

At first the format was a gamble since very few Junior Idol contestants signed up to be a part of the 2009 event at Chez Shari – who has donated the space for the event every week since the contest began back in August.

But with a talented batch of younger singers to compliment a mixture of older performers that included first-timers as well as members of the old guard, the contest quickly became a huge hit and has steadily maintained a crowd of more than 70 people each week that pay the $5 entry fee that goes to help support the Boys and Girls Club.

While she’s not one to gloat, Scarborough says that the committee as a whole is pleased with the way that the season has turned out thus far – especially with the change that placed the top five Manteca Idol contestants and the top three Junior Idol contestants in a month-long runoff where scores are tabulated to determine the winner rather than sending home one participant each week.

The new format has also taken away a lot of the win-at-all-costs attitude that had been prevalent in previous seasons, and has allowed the contestants to foster genuine friendships and a backstage camaraderie that was never before seen.

“We as a committee wanted to make this a family event, and you can see by how well the contestants get along that there isn’t a cut-throat attitude – these singers legitimately want to see one another do well and having them come back each week has really helped keep that going,” Scarborough said. “We’re proud of the way that things have turned out so far, and I think that everybody is looking forward to the Boys and Girls Club Telethon to see exactly who it is that will come out on top.”

Both the Manteca Idol and the Junior Idol winners will be crowned live during the Boys and Girls Club Telethon on Monday, Nov. 23. A handful of finalists will return on Tuesday, Nov. 24, to perform live as well. For more information, or to see pictures of the remaining contestants in each of the two fields, visit

To contact Jason Campbell, e-mail, or call (209) 249-3544.