BROOKINGS, S.D. — She never really thought singing along with someone else’s songs would score her a trip to Las Vegas.
But then, maybe that’s because 21-year-old Nikki Reiff, a South Dakota State University health promotion/pre-occupational therapy major from Parkston, only really sang karaoke once or twice before in her life.
Reiff won the International Bowling Karaoke Superstar Contest at Prairie Lanes in Brookings and has won a trip to Las Vegas, complete with airfare and lodging, to compete in the international semifinals.
“I didn’t really want to (sing karaoke) the first time,” Reiff said. “But then I thought, ‘Heck, I’ll sing.’ And it wasn’t too bad.”
The International Bowling Karaoke Superstar contest is run exclusively at bowling centers in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. Local singers competed each week since late January at Prairie Lanes for winning spots. Weekly winners then sang in the local finals competition.
“This was, by far, the most talented field of contestants the Prairie has ever had,” said Prairie Lanes owner Roxie Nelson. “For those who did not come to the show, they missed an entire evening of entertainment. The singers were great, the crowd was enthusiastic, and the judges were great. It was a fantastic night.”
Interestingly, Reiff had only sung karaoke once before the competition. Her college friends found out that she could sing and signed her up unwillingly. When she found out that she liked karaoke, she decided to sign up for the local competition.
“I wasn’t really nervous,” Reiff said. “Only a bit anxious on the way to the bowling alley. They drew names to see what order we would go in, and I was last every time. Hearing the others sing only made me feel excited to compete.
“I understood the standards, and it pushed me because the competition was really good. So I wasn’t nervous about winning because I knew the other contestants deserved it just as much as I did. I was all about having fun and enjoying the night.”
Whoever takes top honors in the Las Vegas competition gets $5,000, studio time to record a CD and the chance to open for comedian Bill Engvall June 25 at Mandalay Bay. June 25 also happens to be Reiff’s birthday. Reiff leaves for Las Vegas June 20. She said she’s most nervous about choosing the songs that she sings in the international competition.
“I listen to a little of everything, from country music to jazz or R&B,” Reiff said. “I think that might have helped when I won the local competition, because I sang a song from the ’80s (‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ by Guns N Roses), a country song (‘When the Lights Go Down’ by Faith Hill) and an R&B song (‘If I Ain’t Got You’ by Alicia Keys).”
Reiff got her start singing for the public when she was young, performing the national anthem in school and singing at weddings and in church. She also played percussion in her high school band and plays piano. She cantors in church (leads the congregation, often performing solo work) and sings in the SDSU women’s choir.
“Singing is something I’ve always loved to do,” Reiff said. “It’s a lot of fun, and I once thought I was going to be a music major, and be a music teacher. I chose instead to do something in the medical field. Music is still a major hobby of mine.”
Reiff even added that if she won the Las Vegas competition, she might reconsider her plans for the future. “I would still graduate with my undergrad,” she laughed, “but then I would just have to live it out and see where it takes me. Music is definitely something I enjoy.
“I love the feedback you get from singing or performing for a crowd. I feel really blessed.”