ABC NEWS' "6 DEGREES OF MARTINA MCBRIDE" AIRS MONDAY, JULY 30, FROM 9:00-11:00 P.M., ET ON ABC
We've all heard the theory: Everyone in the world is separated from everyone else by only six other people. But is it true? "6 Degrees of Martina McBride" is a two-hour special that takes the intellectual theory to new heights. The program follows six amateur singers from some of the tiniest towns in America with nothing but their dreams. First they have to track down Martina McBride in six steps or less, proving the theory that everyone in the world is connected by a human chain of six people. If successful, they must prove they can sing, getting their own shot at country music stardom. Hosted by Jay Schadler, the special airs MONDAY, JULY 30 (9:00-11:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network.
The program explores whether six participants can link themselves to country music superstar Martina McBride without calling her office, tracking her down at her next performance or Googling her. Instead they must complete the challenge by going to someone they know, asking them to take them to someone they know and so on, with the goal of eventually getting to someone who knows Martina McBride personally. Can they do it? McBride herself has doubts. "I can't imagine six people could know someone who knows someone who could get to me," she says. "I don't think so." And yet, ironically, McBride shares why she feels she has been the beneficiary of six degrees of separation in her own life and career.
The participants begin the quest to connect in their hometowns across America. They then go to Nashville to see how far their talent can take them in the second round of the challenge. They learn from some of the best songwriters in town and then face off in a singing competition held at Nashville's famous Wildhorse Saloon. The three participants voted best by the audience will move on to studio sessions with Martina McBride herself at her recording studio in Nashville. She'll help each singer produce a demo of their best work.
The final part of the six degrees challenge entails the demo and participant being critiqued by three judges, all pros from the music industry. Miranda Lambert, named Academy of Country Music top new female vocalist of the year; Beverly Keel, Nashville's top daily columnist who also teaches about the recording industry at Middle Tennessee State University; and legendary Country-Western swing artist Ray Benson of the group Asleep at the Wheel. These three will select the winner, who will be revealed during the program and whose single will be released that night, digitally distributed by Sony BMG through iTunes and other online outlets.
The Six Participants
� Kristina Craig, age 19, from Whitman, Nebraska. Craig, who lives on the edge of a vast prairie, attended high school 15 miles away from home, in the largest graduating class ever for the school -- 27. Craig dreams of a full-time career as a singer every hour of every day. She's even quit regular jobs that stand in the way.
� Mark Jaspers, age 26, from Beulah, North Dakota. A youth minister at a local church, Jaspers has never lost his childhood hopes of having a professional music career.
� Dani Riker, age 17, from Encampment, Wyoming. Riker lives on a ranch in a tiny community that is an hour and a half from the nearest Wal-Mart. She loves singing so much, she thinks nothing of driving six or seven hours to perform with her local choir.
� DeAnne Roberts, age 44, from Dickens, Texas. Roberts lives on 700 acres of ranch and pasture, tending cattle, and plows and sings. A singer her whole life, she tempted her dreams years ago when she went to Nashville and recorded a demo tape, which unfortunately went nowhere.
� Thomas Stratton, age 18, from Union, Oregon. Stratton recently graduated from high school and is torn between his dreams of becoming a singer and his plans to head to Denver for college this fall to start working toward a business career. No stranger to singing, he often works in his dad's karaoke business, singing at weddings or other events.
� Ken Swick, age 42, from Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Swick handles hundreds of head of cattle running a ranch in the Rocky Mountains. Growing up in rural Nebraska, he said in his whole life he's had two loves -- being a cowboy and music. But apart from the cattle, the only listeners he's had through the years are the lucky visitors who've come by and the occasional gigs he's lined up.
The six degrees of separation theory began as a little known social experiment done in the 1960s by Stanley Milgrim, best known for a controversial study in which he instructed ordinary people to deliver electric shocks to volunteers. But before this "obedience to authority" research, Milgrim worked on a less well known project where he had volunteers, primarily in the Midwest, attempt to connect with someone they did not know, a lawyer who lived in Boston.
The number six is really arbitrary, according to Professor Duncan Watts of Columbia University. "It doesn't really matter whether it is six or seven or eight. What matters is that it's not hundreds or thousands." But as widespread as the notion has become, there has been very little effort to actually prove the theory in experiments. Watts has led perhaps the most significant research to date on the subject at the Small World Project at Columbia University in New York. That experiment is carried out online, and some 60,000 people from 170 countries have taken part.