Local pastor is one of eight finalists in AARP singing contest

Jane and Don Cheek perform as Cheek2Cheek. (Photo courtesy of Susan A. Johnson)

Jane and Don Cheek perform as Cheek2Cheek. (Photo courtesy of Susan A. Johnson)

Pastor Jane Cheek of the First Congregational Church will step out of her role as a cleric for a few days next week when she performs in the finals of AARP's Boomer Superstar singing competition in San Diego.

Cheek and her husband Don of the CheekTones are well known in the local entertainment community, and perform together from time to time in area venues.

But, she will stand in the spotlight in the finals, first with seven other contestants, and then, if she advances to be among the top five Boomer Superstar Contest finalists, she will perform in front of a live audience and a panel of judges, which includes celebrities such as Patti Austin, Taylor Hicks and 19-time Grammy Award winning musician and producer Emilio Estefan.  The winner will receive $5,000 and an audition with music label 19 Recordings.

As part of its partnership with American Idol Live!, AARP will host the live singing competition on Sept. 5 at AARP's Ideas@50+ National Event and Expo at the San Diego Convention Center. 

Cheek chose to sing Linda Ronstadt's "You're No Good" when she entered the competition, which she found out about in an AARP magazine ad that said, "Do you know who the next AARP superstars are?"

She decided to try out, and sent a two-minute video to AARP. There were 1,200 entries, and Cheek made the list of 30 during the first cut in online voting.

Now, Cheek is one of eight who will travel to San Diego for the finals, all expenses paid.

While husband Don is "definitely rock 'n roll," Cheek is "more of a crooner," she said.

Ronstadt's "You're No Good" got Cheek to the final eight, and if she makes it to the top five, she will have to sing a different song. Her choice for this is "Since I Fell for You," a hit by Bette Midler, another of Cheek's favorite vocalists.

On Thursday, Sept. 4, Cheek will sing for a panel of judges. The five finalists will sing before the live audience the next day.

Cheek said she selected her two songs because "they had meaning to me when I was younger. Who hasn't been cheated on? They each came along when I was in the middle of something in my own life that made me identify with the words 'they stuck.' And, the tunes are great, and the singers strong women who wouldn't 'take it' from anyone. I hope I can bring the same intensity and meaning to the songs that both Bette and Linda did."

"I've been singing since I was a kid," she said. The talent "was gifted to me for whatever reason," Cheek said, adding she was doing solos in second grade. "It has been in me all of my life. I never did anything with it."

As the AARP Boomer Superstar contest nears, cheek says, "It really isn't sinking in yet. I think when I finally get before the judges on Thursday, it will be more real to me. I'm ready to sing, though, and I'm excited to be part of something that shows the world that being 60 years old doesn't mean life stops being amazing."

- Story by Karen Despain