Number of contestants will be trimmed to 8 on Tuesday's show

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FARMINGTON — Contestants hoping to win the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow on the NBC-TV series "The Voice" — a recording contract — face a daunting challenge as the competition reaches its latter stages each year.

They must select and learn a new song each week, then perform it well enough before a studio audience to advance to the next round. The list of competitors is cut from 24 to 13 to 11 to 10 to eight to four before one singer finally emerges victorious during the season finale on Dec. 18. It is a drip-drip-drip approach to selecting a winner that is likely to test the patience of even the most seasoned performer, much less someone relatively new to such high-stakes proceedings.

Farmington resident Chevel Shepherd, who has advanced to the round of 10 on "The Voice" this season, knows that feeling as well as anyone. The Farmington High School junior, who will perform live on the program tonight in her bid to advance to next week's round of eight, experienced her most tension-filled appearance on the program yet last week. During the Nov. 27 episode, she didn't hear her name called until late in the program, becoming the ninth contestant out of 10 to make the cut.

Despite being only 16, Shepherd has displayed remarkable composure throughout her run on the program, thanks to a mental approach that emphasizes living in the moment. But she acknowledged in a telephone interview Thursday from Los Angeles that last week was different.

"My heart was racing," Shepherd said, describing her growing anxiety at seeing several other contestants move on while she remained behind. When host Carson Daly finally did call her name, she said, it was all she could do not to lose her poise.

"I looked up at the ceiling, and a rush of relief went over me," she said.

Shepherd's wait was made a little easier by the thoughtful actions of another contestant and a fellow member of Team Kelly, the group of competitors being coached by Kelly Clarkson, one of the program's judges. Contestant Sarah Grace, who had been named a member of the final 10 several minutes earlier, responded to having her name called by immediately turning to Shepherd and assuring her they would be moving on to the next round together.

Shepherd said that gesture provided her with a welcome dose of confidence.

"That meant a lot to me," she said. "Sarah Grace and I are really, really close. We're the two best friends on the show and always together. … It made me feel good because it put a bigger spark of hope inside me."

More: Chevel Shepherd makes 'The Voice' cut, moves to final 10

Shepherd said the many things she and the 15-year-old Grace, a Houston resident, have in common have allowed them to bond over the past several weeks. In addition to the fact that they are virtually the same age, Shepherd said they both like school, and they share a passion for music. The two girls like to spend their spare time hanging out together at the pool at their hotel near Universal Studios, Shepherd said.

But such idle moments are few and far between for the remaining contestants on the program. Shepherd said she typically gets up between 6 and 7 a.m. each day, spending more than five hours with a tutor on her school work before devoting most of the rest of her time to taking vocal lessons or rehearsing her next song with a band.

Occasionally, she said, there's an activity planned for the competitors, such as when Clarkson recently took the members of Team Kelly to a local escape room for a night out. But Shepherd maintains a sharp focus on the task at hand.

More: Farmington girl hopes to parlay 'The Voice' success into Nashville career

" … There is a lot of work behind it," she said, describing her preparations each week. "I like to make sure everything is ready to go so I'm ready to go on show day."

But her routine is far from drudgery, she said. Shepherd continues to enjoy herself, and she said she has been chronicling her experiences with videos and diary entries so she can relive them years from now.

Also keeping her occupied is the task of selecting a new song each week. Shepherd's choice in material so far this season has reflected her preference of picking tunes with which she feels a personal connection, such as "If I Die Young," "Travelin' Soldier" and "Grandpa, Tell Me 'Bout the Good Old Days."

That wasn't the case during her most recent performance, when she settled on "Space Cowboy" by Kacey Musgraves at the suggestion of her fans. But Shepherd said she managed to develop an emotional link to the song despite its theme of a failed romantic relationship, something she has yet to experience.

"I kind of had to come up with my own connection," she said. " … I've never had my heart broken before, so I kind of related it to friends who had stopped being my friend and how it affected me."

More: Stayin' alive: Chevel Shepherd makes top 11 on 'The Voice'

Viewers have several ways to participate in the show’s voting process next week. They can download the program's app at nbc.com/Voiceapp, or they can go online to nbc.com/VoiceVote or Xfinity.com/VoiceVote. Viewers also can visit apple.com/apple-music/ and vote by streaming the music of the artist of their choice.

Viewers have up to 10 votes they can cast for their favorite competitors after registering with NBC. "The Voice" airs locally at 7 tonight and Tuesday night.

The city of Farmington is planning a watch party for Shepherd tonight at the Farmington Civic Center, 200 W. Arrington St. Doors open at 6 p.m., and food will be available for purchase.

Shepherd can be followed on Twitter at @officialchevel.

Mike Easterling is the night editor of The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4610.

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