A 4-H alum, Willie Spence, just narrowly missed being crowned champion of season 19 of American Idol, instead finishing in second place in Sunday evening’s finale. The Georgia native is 21 years old and has been in 4-H since he was 13. He became a breakout star of the 4-H performing arts group Clovers & Co., which is where Spence became comfortable on stage and gained experience in showmanship. Like with so much about 4-H, he was nurtured in his craft by being around 4-H leaders and fellow youth entertainers.
Spence was runner up to 24-year-old Chayce Beckham. This season of American Idol is widely regarded as one of the toughest, and any of Sunday’s three finalists could have walked away the winner — or won many of the previous seasons of American Idol. When Beckham’s name was announced, Judge Lionel Richie said, “I’m in shock! I don’t know what I expected, but to lose any one of those is ridiculous!”
Here’s Spence’s performance of A Change is Gonna Come by Sam Cook during Sunday’s three-hour live show:
Jennifer Sirangelo, president/CEO of the National 4-H Council, shared a message to Spence: “I have no doubt that the sky is the limit for you, Willie! I’m so in awe of your passion for music, your love of your community, and the pure joy you bring to every person you touch. You ARE a star and a true musical idol.”
The talent show has had a few 4-H connections over the years, most notably that country music superstar and American Idol judge Luke Bryan was in 4-H. Spence, coincidentally, is from the same hometown as country star and Georgia 4-H alumna Jennifer Nettles.
While we were rooting for a 4-H alum to make it to the top of American Idol, there’s no question Spence has had a lot of talent for a long time. His rendition of Pharell’s hit song Happy while he was with Clovers & Co. says it all!