OK, so the judges might not be Nicki Minaj or Keith Urban, but contestants in this year's Valley Teen Idol competition could find themselves auditioning for "American Idol" one day. It has happened before.

The San Ramon Valley Rotary Club is once again hosting its annual "Valley Teen Idol" competition, which means the audition door is wide open to the area's most talented seventh-to-12th-grade vocal and instrumental performers.

"This is our ninth year ... and it's getting bigger and bigger," said event Chairwoman Sharon Mace. "The kids come from all walks of life. It gives them a chance to shine."

The competition began nine years ago, started by a Rotary Club member who was a big fan of the hit show "American Idol." What started out as a dinner show at a restaurant has evolved into a multistage Bay Area talent competition that begins with open auditions and ends with an audience-participation final competition at the Village Theater in Danville.

"We started out with about 20 contestants, and last year had about 70," Mace said. Two winners from previous years went on to audition for "American Idol," she added.

Rotary members with musical backgrounds act as judges for the initial auditions. Organizers are seeking community members with musical backgrounds to help judge the semifinal and final competitions. Audience members at those events will join judges in casting votes for their favorite performer.

The grand prize winner will receive $1,000 and a recording session. Second prize is $500, with the third-place winner taking home $250. Tickets are available for the semifinal and finals, which will include food concessions, silent and live auctions and drawings for prizes. Valley Teen Idol is the biggest fundraiser of the year for San Ramon Rotary, Mace said.

"This makes us money that we're able to use for various things, such as providing clean water systems in Tanzania and other African countries," she said. "We also sponsor a wheelchair foundation that goes all over the world and, of course, the Polio Plus program; Rotary has almost entirely eradicated polio around the world."

The contest provides teens with a rare performance opportunity, Mace said.

"They don't always get to shine at school because they usually are part of a group," Mace said. "This way they get to be by themselves and show what they can do."

FYI
What: Valley Teen Idol auditions and competition for vocal and instrumental music.
Who: Contestants may be residents of any city, but must be in seventh through 12th grade.
Auditions: Saturday, Sunday
and March 9-10 at 2010 San
Ramon Place in San Ramon. Check website for times.
Semifinals: 6 p.m. April 9-10, Village Theater, 233 Front St. in Danville
Finals: 6 p.m. April 30 and May 1, Village Theater
Details: For more information and applications, visit
www.sanramonvalleyrotary.com.