Arkansas Talent announces singing competition winners

LITTLE ROCK – The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra (ASO) announced Marcus Murphy of Little Rock and Kim Qualls of Maumelle as the winners of its first-ever singing competition, Arkansas Talent. The winners, selected after a two-day concert event May 11-12 at Robinson Center in Little Rock, will collaborate with ASO in multiple ways, including starring in its popular “Home for the Holidays” concerts in December.

Marcus Murphy

Murphy, a 52-year-old biomedical engineer at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, performed “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” during the Saturday night show. Qualls, a 39-year-old vocal coach and worship leader at South City Church in Little Rock, performed “The Writing’s On the Wall” on Sunday.

“Our mission at ASO is to support our community in its love for music, and Arkansas Talent is a great opportunity to keep that going,” ASO CEO Christina Littlejohn said. “During Arkansas Talent, we’ve uncovered some of Arkansas’ finest musical performers. We can’t wait to continue working with Marcus and Kim later this year for one of our most popular shows, ‘Home for the Holidays.’”

Kim Qualls

Arkansas Talent began in November with nearly 100 auditioners, and 12 Arkansans moved to the competition’s semifinals in January. The final round of the competition concluded this past weekend, featuring six finalists, the ASO and three well-known Arkansas musicians as Arkansas Talent judges: “American Idol” Season Eight Winner Kris Allen, recording artist Bonnie Montgomery and local jazz musician Rodney Block. They were joined by ASO Music Director Geoffrey Robson.

Talent judges


Marcus Murphy, 52 – A UAMS Biomedical Engineer, he’s been part of a group that opened for or sang background for artists including Diane Reeves, Kenny Loggins and Phillip Bailey. He’s also performed in a nationally syndicated commercial for BET Stars.

Kim Qualls, 39 – South City Church Worship Leader, she began singing at age 2 and recording at age 6. She has spent the last 23 years as a professional vocalist here in central Arkansas and has been a vocal coach to students of the Summer Musical Theatre Intensive program at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre.

Other Finalists

  1. Yni Bernalte, 13: Lisa Academy West Middle School Student (Little Rock)
  2. Kyndal Collins, 21: UA Little Rock Vocal Performance Student (Little Rock)
  3. Rachel Kamphausen, 32: UA Little Rock Graduate with Vocal Performance Degree (Sherwood)
  4. Mya Little, 23: UA Little Rock Music Student (Little Rock)