By RUTHIE ROBISON
Lifestyles Editor: Greenwood Commonwealth
Entertaining has always been a part of Amy Showalter’s life.
From the time she was 3 years old, Showalter would prance around from house to house in her Louisville neighborhood, knock on doors and ask her neighbors, “Would you like me to sing you a song and do a dance?”
“My mom takes credit. When I was in the womb, she placed headphones on her belly for an hour every day,” Showalter said.
But it wasn’t until her family moved to Greenwood during her 11th-grade year of high school that she realized her full potential.
“Greenwood embraced me, gave me empowerment and encouraged me,” Showalter said. “I have never forgotten where I come from and never will.”
Now the charismatic 44-year-old has a chance of a lifetime — use her musical talents to snag the top prize of $1 million on NBC’s summer hit “The Winner Is.”
Showalter is no stranger to the limelight.
At Greenwood High School, her band director, Mark Johnson, asked her to play the drum.
“I was the only girl on the bass drum line in my 11th-grade year,” Showalter said.
Her new role in the band became front-page news in the school newspaper. Showalter said that fame was a life-changing moment for her, and she felt encouraged as a musician.
“My experience in Greenwood was the catalyst for my musical endeavors,” Showalter said.
After graduating from high school, Showalter received a scholarship to Mississippi Delta Community College in Moorhead. There she continued to hone her talents and was drum major in the school band. She then received a scholarship to complete her bachelor’s degree at Delta State University.
She graduated in 1992 with a degree in music education and an emphasis in percussion.
During her college years, Showalter competed in the Miss Mississippi pageant three times and was second runner-up in each competition. Her percussion skills paid off in the pageant, where she won the talent competition all three years with her marimba solos.
She was also in a band while at Delta State and played at Cleveland’s Abby T’s and The Firehouse Tavern.
Showalter continued to perform after college while maintaining a career as a performing arts teacher. She toured with a cover band based in Las Vegas called BandShe as far as Hong Kong. Showalter even spent time with the band in Iraq performing for the troops.
“I did get the opportunity to tour and fulfill my dream of being on stage for a living,” Showalter said. “I received a little bit of exposure, but it’s an extremely exhausting lifestyle if you’re not prepared.”
Showalter also realized during this time that being on stage gave her an opportunity to empower people as well as entertain.
“Yeah, I can sing and dance, but let me contribute to your life. That’s my M.O. now,” Showalter said.
The realization of the influence of her stage presence with the audience changed her life, Showalter said.
“I’m now focused on contributing to other people’s lives through entertainment, empowerment and education,” said Showalter. “I want a career on the stage, but I also want to empower people to have the kind of lives they want. I want to give them something to take away.”
For the past 10 years, Showalter has lived in California with her husband, Chuck Schwal. Both are teachers at Polytechnic High School in Los Angeles.
Over the course of a decade, Showalter established a Bravo Award-winning and nationally recognized fine arts program at the high school. Her husband is the head baseball coach and assistant football coach at the school.
Showalter no longer teaches full time. She focuses her energy on such projects as her band, The Black Shamrocks, and her second book, “Believing the Body Beautiful,” which features a women’s education, empowerment and enlightenment program.
“I’m blessed to enjoy the best of both worlds,” Showalter said. “I’m not trying to be Beyonce. I just want to live my life with my husband, make sure dinner is cooked, and then if I have a gig, get dressed in my crazy costumes, go sing and shake a tail feather.”
On Thursday at 8 p.m., Showalter will bring her energetic personality and rich voice to the stage on “The Winner Is.” The show includes soloists, duets and groups of all ages competing for a grand prize of $1 million.
Showalter will be judged by an in-studio panel of music experts, who will vote for the act they like best in each duel. Competitors have the opportunity to negotiate a deal after they perform and before hearing their fate. They can “take the money and run” or choose to stay in the competition for the grand prize.
Showalter said her background in cover bands helped her through the auditioning process.
“In one of my auditions, I must have sung eight or 10 different songs,” Showalter said. “I sang everything from The Red Hot Chili Peppers to the Beatles to Carrie Underwood.”
After a series of auditions, Showalter found out she was selected as a contestant on “The Winner Is.” She said it wasn’t until then that the rules and grand prize of the competition were revealed.
“I think my past experience gives me an edge, just because of the nature of the show,” Showalter said. “My repertoire is huge as far as music.”
A lot has changed about Showalter since her days in Greenwood.
“I used to be the ‘Let’s grab a beer and go fishing’ type of girl,” she said. “I still go fishing; I just take a mineral water instead.”
But one thing viewers of the “The Winner Is” will immediately notice hasn’t changed about Showalter — her deep Delta accent.
“You can take the girl out of Mississippi, but you can never take the Mississippi out of the girl,” said Showalter.
Viewers of the show can play along online for a chance to win $10,000.
Showalter will tweet during the broadcast at https://twitter.com/amyshosays.