Kevin took a step forward and frowned as he watched the person ahead of him. The younger man said his full name, age and height. Before he even opened his mouth to sing, one of the judges was shaking his head. Had the man already been disqualified?

“I’m sorry, you don’t have the presence we’re looking for in the new band,” the man beside the hooded judge said.

The contestant sighed and walked off the stage dejectedly. “Next,” the youngest judge said in a bright voice.

Kevin swallowed thickly and stepped onto the stage. It was now or never. “Kevin Samuels,” he said. “Age twenty-three, height at five foot seven inches.” He paused and the hooded judge nodded at the others. As he sang, the youngest judge sketched furiously. The only one of the three who seemed to be truly listening was the bespectacled man on the far end.

When he was finished, all three judges wrote down a number on a scorecard and held it up. The hooded judge’s card read 10. The youngest judge held a 9.5. The final judge held a card with a 9 written on it. Beside the number was a sizable scribble, as if something had been scratched out. Beside that was a smaller .5, squeezed in almost as an afterthought. Kevin relaxed. He was moving onto the next round.