The old adage "Mother is always right" couldn't have been more dead-on for 13-year-old Cole Fletcher.
Cole's mother always wanted him to sing John Lennon's "Imagine" during a singing contest, but it wasn't in his key, he said.
He chose other songs for his first and second OC Icon contest, but for his third, which took place Sept. 11, he tried his mother's suggestion and added the big trophy to his small ones.
"I just remember I was really, really excited," the Huntington Beach resident said. "Also, a little relieved."
Cole said he always loved the song, but never had the ability to sing it until he had the key changed. Now he is the winner of OC Icon, a solo voice competition for kids 7 to 18 years old in Orange County.
The experience has taught him to keep up his confidence and always believe in himself, he said.
"I've learned that you should always persevere and always just go for it," he said.
Cole attributes part of the win to the song — it's a crowd-pleaser. But going through the competition several times has also taught him a thing or two about performing.
"It was such a great growing experience," said Lucia Fletcher, Cole's mother.
The experience also showed Cole just how much he loves singing. A year ago, he was all about acting — musical theater, to be specific — and had just started his first year at the Orange County High School of the Arts, which he had wanted to attend since third grade.
Now in his second year, Cole said he has realized his passion for singing and how happy it makes him.
"I love the art itself and what it is," he said. "I've always been transformed by singing. It just amazes me."
Winning the competition wasn't just about the big trophy, but also a leg-up for Cole in the music world. He won new headshots, a demo CD that will include a song written just for him, and the chance to make a music video for the original song from WBZB Entertainment, the nonprofit organization that puts on OC Icon.
The demo CD will be important for his career, where it acts like a resume, Fletcher said.
Cole said he learned over the summer the importance of having a demo as he pursued his career. He booked jobs without it, including one singing on an educational CD and another singing on NBA player Dwight Howard's new album, but he thinks a professional recording will help him.
"I feel like [the prizes will] open up a lot of new doors for me," he said.