Thomas and Ronnell Hein met 20 years ago while singing karaoke in San Jose. Later this month, the couple will battle it out at the Karaoke World Championships (KWC) national finals, after both secured a spot on Team California.
The Heins were two of the six Team Metropolitan competitors who represented all of Northern California at the KWC state finals. The majority of the other competitors were from the Los Angeles area, according to Thomas Hein, and the Metropolitan in San Andreas was the only registered venue for qualifiers in Northern California.
During the eight-hour-long state finals competition at 99 Bottles and Cocktails in Anaheim on July 28, all six Team Met competitors made it to the semi-final round, and four sang in the final round.
“We were the only club with all its team members in the semi-finals,” Hein said. “We were representing Team Met pretty well there.”
Hein won sixth place in the final round, crooning his way into the last remaining spot on Team California with his rendition of Elvis Presley’s “Fever.” His wife, Ronnell, won fifth place with “Redneck Woman” by Gretchen Wilson.
The couple and 94 other competitors had to perform two prior songs in order to make it to the final round, with many eliminations occurring along the way.
For the Heins, one of the most challenging aspects of the competition was the “waiting and anticipation” of getting their name called to perform again – the only way of knowing they hadn’t been eliminated.
Thomas Hein described the experience as “absolutely terrifying.”
“When you were done singing, you had to change into the next outfit. You had to get over it and put your next outfit on,” Ronnell Hein said. “It was kind of grueling not knowing what would happen next.”
Despite the increasing pressure of the KWC competitions, both said they’re not very nervous for the upcoming national finals, which will take place Aug. 18-21 at South Point Hotel Casino and Spa in Las Vegas.
“We’re just happy to be there for the experience,” said Ronnell Hein, who added that their 7-year-old karaoke-enthusiast daughter will be there to support her parents. “We’ll just do us and stay true to who we are.”
The couple plans to stay primarily in the realm of tried-and-true classics with their song choices for the nationals, with some country crooning and early rock ‘n’ roll hopefully carrying them to the world finals stage in Tokyo this fall.
The Heins said they are highly appreciative of Kimberly Annand and her karaoke company, Sweet Harmony Entertainment, for hosting the KWC qualifiers at the Metropolitan and coaching its team. Annand, who won the 2013 KWC nationals competition and placed third in the world finals, organized the event to allow other Mother Lode locals to have a chance to sing to the top.
To fund travel and other expenses at the state and upcoming finals, the Heins were sponsored by friends and family, as well as local businesses including Bistro Espresso in Arnold, Spence Ranch Feed and Supply in Angels Camp, and Murphys Pour House.
Their fellow Team Met competitor, Rob Bryon, is also supplying them with costumes to “step it up a couple notches” in Las Vegas.
“I walked the walk with a flyer rundown of expenses that came up, and they came through for us,” Ronnell Hein said. “We’re really appreciative of that.”