FORT WASHINGTON – William D. Ellis has been singing for nearly six decades.
So, when he stepped on the stage to perform the 1983 hit “The Wind Beneath My Wings,” he said it was strange that he felt nervous.
“You say, ‘OK, it’s me and you Lord,’” said Ellis, 68. “It’s me and you. Let’s go.”
The South Carolina native beat 29 competitors to win Prince George’s County Senior Idol competition in early January. He and the runner-up will represent the county at the sixth statewide Senior Idol contest at the Bowie Center for Performing Arts on April 4.
“Competition is on, OK,” Ellis said, smiling. “PG County seniors, [you're going to] be very proud of my deliverance. And I’m going to deliver.”
Ellis – who is a former general education instructor for the district’s prison system and public school administrator – has been retired for nearly a year. Still, in his 26th year as a director of the Mentrotone Baptist Church Choir in Washington, D.C., he continues to lead the singing group twice a month.
“Mr. Ellis would make a person who can’t talk sing,” said Nell Bumbrey, a Mentrotone choir member for a decade. “That’s how dynamic he is. He is just a person who has a lot of energy and he passes it on to the choir.”
Mentrotone’s Rev. Amaziah C. Harper said the congregation is very proud of Ellis’ accomplishment.
“He’s [going to] give it his all whether he’s on camera, in competition or whether he’s just singing in the bathroom,” he said.
In the state competition, senior contestants over 60 will be scored by a panel of four judges on their voice quality, stage presence, connection with the audience, song selection and memorization of the lyrics, said Darilyn Marinelli, senior services coordinator for the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission.
“It’s a show that you want to come out and see,” she said.
The Maryland Senior Idol program started seven years ago. Prince George’s County joined the program last year, when the county winner took the state title, Marinelli said.
Sylvia Legette – who’s known Ellis for 27 years – said she is confident that Ellis will bring home the state title again this year.
“Bring it on,” she said. “I just know that he’s [going to] win.”