Immaculate Conception parishioner in spotlight on ‘Duets’

Alexis Foster takes national stage on ABC talent series after honing skills in church choir

Singing to a national audience Immaculate Conception parishioner and recent University of Tennessee graduate Alexis Foster performs May 31 with Robin Thicke on ABC’s prime-time talent show “Duets.” Alexis was one of eight contestants vying to win the national competition. Singing stars on the show included Kelly Clarkson and Jennifer Nettles of the country group Sugarland.

Alexis Foster’s final semester at the University of Tennessee came in stages.

Actually, Ms. Foster has gone from the graduation stage to a nationally televised stage as part of the new ABC prime-time talent search show “Duets.”

The recent UT graduate and a parishioner at Immaculate Conception Church received a chance of a lifetime this spring when she was selected to compete on the show, where eight contestants compete to be one of America’s newest singing stars.

Ms. Foster was one of eight contestants vying to win the “Duets” competition, with an opportunity to launch a professional singing career. The “Duets” contestants have been paired with a professional singer to showcase their talents.

Ms. Foster was paired with Robin Thicke, a singer-songwriter and record producer known for performing rhythm and blues, soul and hip hop, before being eliminated from the show in June.

Before leaving the show, Ms. Foster made several performances with Mr. Thicke as viewers and the panel of recording industry professionals sized up their skills.

She left the show in an episode that appeared in early June.

Ms. Foster was born and raised in Knoxville and graduated this spring from UT in public relations and business. She has been developing her singing talent in school and by singing in church choirs.

Her father, Dr. James Foster, an internal medicine physician, said his 21-year-old daughter has been singing since she was a child, although it has only been in the past six months that she felt comfortable enough to test her talent on a national stage.

“She has always been musically inclined. Alexis seemed to have an ear for music. She had a very good grasp of music at a very early age. She has hung in there and has wanted to do more,” Dr. Foster said.

Since graduation and her appearance on “Duets,” Ms. Foster has decided to explore a career in music and will be working with a producer in New York to get her singing off the ground, according to her father.

He credits her early performances in church and youth choirs, especially the Knoxville Children’s Choir and the UT Singers, for helping her develop musically.

He and wife Dawn Michelle Foster, deputy director for redevelopment with the city of Knoxville, also give credit to their other children, Jason, 27, Alexis’ twin sister Allyson, and younger daughter Camera, 19.

Dr. Foster said the girls especially liked to harmonize when singing hymns at Immaculate Conception. He said their singing eventually attracted attention from parishioners sitting next to them in Mass.

The Fosters have known for sometime that their daughter Alexis has a special talent. In fact, Dr. Foster said each of his college-educated children was exposed to music at an early age through his passion for music. He plays saxophone and keyboards.

However, it hasn’t always been easy for Alexis to show off her skills.

Dr. Foster said she is naturally shy and an introvert when it comes to performing.

The Fosters and friends of their daughter encouraged her to try out for the hit TV show “American Idol” when she was 16.

In the meantime, she has pursued other interests, such as academics and the study of public relations and business.

Despite his daughter’s shyness, Dr. Foster said years of performing in groups has reversed her public-performance discomfort to the point where she jumped at the chance to go on “Duets.”

In an interview after her elimination with writer Gina Scarpa, who writes for a website about singing, Ms. Foster said her appearance on “Duets” has reignited a passion for singing to the point where she is testing a career in the music industry.

In entertainment, timing is critical and Ms. Foster found that out performing on “Duets.”

She said her last performance was on the day she graduated from UT. She was unable to attend graduation because she was doing the show. While her participation on “Duets” was short-lived, she said she gained confidence appearing on the show.

The competitors on the show have been paired with singing stars Kelly Clarkson, who has had a successful professional career since winning the first “American Idol” singing competition on television; John Legend, who has won nine Grammy Awards; Jennifer Nettles, the lead vocalist in the hit country duo Sugarland; and Mr. Thicke, a musician-composer who has written hits for popular artists Jennifer Hudson, Usher and Mary J. Blige.

Viewers of the show vote each week for who they want to continue via phone, online or Facebook. Each week, the singer who receives the lowest number of votes is eliminated until there is a winner, who gets an opportunity to launch a professional singing career with a recording contract with Hollywood Records.

Dr. Foster can see that his daughter’s experience on “Duets” has heightened her interest in a music career, and at a good time. “She now has experience performing, but she can be a studio singer, too. We’re all given gifts. Alexis has the gift of music.” n

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