- The Washington Times - Monday, May 7, 2007

A Maryland resident is among the four finalists who will perform tonight on “American Idol.”

LaKisha Jones, 27, recently moved to Fort Meade, Md., so she could be close to family members, one of her former pastors said.

Patrick Owens, a manager at Provident Bank in Millersville, Md., where Miss Jones began working as a bank teller in July, said the staffers have been voting for her since she became a finalist on the TV show, which has vaulted undiscovered musical talent into stardom and has become something of an American obsession.

“I think everybody’s pretty excited about how far she’s gotten,” Mr. Owens said. “We’re getting the votes in.”

The bank has been hosting viewing parties every Tuesday, when the contestants perform on the show.

Miss Jones has pleased fans and the judges with her renditions of mostly soul and blues classics and her powerful, mature voice — refined over 22 years of practice.

Miss Jones hails from Flint, Mich., but has become a hometown star to fans in Maryland, Michigan and Texas, where she lived for six years.

In Flint, the Rev. H.B. Dixson, pastor of Mount Zion Baptist Church, and his wife, Artie, said Miss Jones began singing at their church as a 5-year-old.

“She has always wanted to sing,” Mrs. Dixson said. “I really would be surprised if she didn’t go all the way.”

Ed Montgomery, pastor of Miss Jones’ former church, Abundant Life Cathedral in Houston, which produced gospel star Yolanda Adams, said he speaks to Miss Jones weekly on the phone.

Mr. Montgomery said he began grooming her talent when she was about 19, after he heard her sing at a funeral. “I had to turn around and see who was singing, and it was her,” he said.

Mr. Montgomery said he gave Miss Jones every opportunity he could to sing with the choir to build her confidence.

The church also has an “American Idol” viewing party for the 7,000-member congregation.

“If she gets eliminated, of course our arms are wide open,” Mr. Montgomery said. “We’d love for her to come back to Houston.”

Miss Jones and the other finalists likely will dip into the Bee Gees songbook tonight, as the guest performer/mentor is Barry Gibb, the disco group’s lead singer.

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