Brewmaster wins Cortez Idol contest

Cortez Idol winner Branden Miller, left, receives a $1,000 check from Blondie’s owner Desmond Calhoon. Enlargephoto

The Cortez Journal

Cortez Idol winner Branden Miller, left, receives a $1,000 check from Blondie’s owner Desmond Calhoon.

He sings in the shower. He sings in the car. He signs while making beer.

Branden Miller, however, had never sung on stage until eight weeks ago after being encouraged to enter the Second Annual Cortez Idol competition. He was shocked after winning the contest Wednesday night before a standing-room only crowd at Blondie’s Trophy Room.

“Holy cow,” he said moments after receiving a $1,000 prize and a trip to Las Vegas.

Miller said he never envisioned winning the competition when he auditioned against 60 other contestants in January. The hardest aspect of Cortez Idol was singing in front of hundreds of strangers.

“Getting up on stage, that’s tough,” Miller said. “To keep the butterflies in check, I simply focused on my daughters’ faces.”

The head brewmaster at the Main Street Brewery in downtown Cortez, Miller and his wife, Jolynn, have five daughters. One was recently diagnosed with a hyperactive thyroid, which caused her heart rate to soar to 160 beats per minute while she was sleeping.

“We had to air lift her to Denver,” Miller said. “Most of the $1,000 will go toward her medical bills.”

With a play list of 150 songs on his music player, Miller said he “loves to sing.” His passion was evidenced through his stage presence and crowd interaction, both of which helped separate him from the rest of the competition, said Cortez Idol judge Jill Carlson.

“This year was the first time a male contestant moved past the first round, and now a man has won the competition,” Branden said.

Carlson was one of four judges, who scored singers on musicality, originality, stage presence, crowd appeal and marketability. An audience favorite, which included an online poll and ballots cast on Wednesday, was also used to determine the winner. Miller collected 40 percent of the audience vote.

The contest was modeled after the hit television show, American Idol. It started in January.