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Millikin University graduate Audrianna Bartholomew


DECATUR — The lessons of life are never done.

Audrianna Bartholomew received her BFA in Musical Theater from Millikin University in December. Just two months later, she was named a finalist in the 5th Annual National NextGen: Finding the Voices of Tomorrow, presented by the American Pops Orchestra.

Bartholomew is one of 10 contestants selected as finalists after the semi-final aired Jan. 29. The finalists were announced the following day. The final competition will take place on March 20.

However, national competitions are nothing new for the 23-year-old California native. In 2018, she appeared on NBC’s “The Voice” and was selected by judge Jennifer Hudson to be part of her team. After the battle round and dueting with Hudson, Bartholomew returned home.

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Audri Barthelemy - NBC

Audri Bartholomew, a student at Millikin University, chats with the judges of “The Voice” in the Monday, October 1 episode.


She spent a gap year preparing for “The Voice” and working as an intern for a children’s performing arts academy.

“I got to work with the kids and also see the more corporate side,” she said.

The experience provided Bartholomew with another view of the business. “I really enjoyed seeing how art affects children,” she said.

As a child, she also participated in similar artistic programs and was hired for small acting roles. “My parents were able to send me to learn more about the craft,” Bartholomew said of her time on stage as a child. “It’s great to see that inspiration.”

Bartholomew continues to hone his craft. As a former student of Millikin and a working artist, she auditions for acting roles, spends time in a recording studio, and searches for the right agent. “It’s really a waiting game, especially with Hollywood and COVID going on,” she said. “There aren’t really a lot of opportunities. You just gotta keep hustling and chasing after what you can.

Millikin provided some of the tools necessary to make an artist marketable, according to Bartholomew. “I had to do a lot of different genres,” she says. “I tried to change those styles. I feel like I can take them out when I need them at a different time.

Audrianna Barthelemy

Audrianna Bartholomew preforms professionally after graduating from Millikin University in December.


Bartholomew credits Millikin vocal instructor Ann Borders with much of his success in college. “She taught me a lot about my power as a singer,” Bartholomew said. “I don’t always need to be so energetic with my sound. I learned to control my voice better.

Other supportive teachers gave her the strength she needed to accept the struggles that might await her. “They were always challenging me,” she said. “And not always saying ‘Yes’ to me, which is what I used to hear.”

Bartholomew was a straight student in high school. She kept the momentum going during her time at Millikin. “Not only was I able to gain a lot of experience in my field, but I was also able to graduate Magna Cum Laude.”

The National NextGen competition, its newest competitive challenge, is sponsored by the American Pops Orchestra. The organization inspires the next generation of musicians.

College students are encouraged to apply in hopes of winning $2,000 and the opportunity to perform in New York. Bartholomew was encouraged to apply through her high school singing teacher and Borders. “It’s been great to see the great support system I’ve had over the years,” she said.

Bartholomew understands that the new contest is another opportunity to expand his career. His plans include eventually moving to New York. She said she would be networking among other things in the business while she was in town. “I’m using this experience as a learning experience,” Bartholomew said. “But also to meet great people.”

The competition, a mix of 30 young performers, is the first step. “They were all from great schools as well,” Bartholomew said. “It’s something we’ve all seen before.”

Contact Donnette Beckett at (217) 421-6983. Follow her on Twitter: @donnettebHR