By Victoria Slater, ’12
As a single, narrow spotlight beamed down upon her, junior Erin Casey rested her hands on the cool metal of the microphone and parted her quivering lips. It was show time and her chance to shine.
Casey remembers the exact nerve-wracking moments when she sang her heart out at last year’s talent show. But singing is not just a pastime for Casey. It’s her life.
“I’ve always known really,” Casey said. “My mom couldn’t remember a time when I wasn’t singing or dancing around.”
Following the lead of many Internet singing sensations, Casey uploaded a self-made music video of herself on Facebook during her freshman year. Within a few weeks, a surge of requests for songs came, and Casey realized that she was gaining popularity at a rate she never expected.
“I kept getting more and more requests until finally, a lot of people saw the videos,” she said.
The recognition she received was nothing short of rewarding. With a Facebook fan page dedicated to her talent, Casey explains she feels prepared to take the next step—gaining singing acknowledgment at a broader level.
“I plan to audition for American Idol [next] summer,” she said. “My dad promised when I was in the third grade that I could do it. Thankfully it is still on now that I’m 16.”
However, Casey’s main ambition does not lie with American Idol. Rather, she said she seems to have her heart set on a much more achievable aspiration.
“My biggest dream is to someday have a CD,” she said. “Maybe not in the near future, but sometime in my life.”
A School with Skill
At UA, Casey is not alone in her pursuit for big dreams.
Like Casey, sophomore Meaghan Campbell is utilizing the Internet to share her voice and to gain recognition from the high school.
“My ultimate singing goal is to become a country singer-songwriter,” she said. “But my current goal is to get my web site and Facebook pages up, so more people can hear my music.”
Throughout the past year, Campbell has used various opportunities, such as the talent show and the Bare Magazine CD, to share her voice.
“I am giving my CD out to people, and I’m finding places to perform,” she said. “I also submitted two of my songs to the Bare CD and they both got in.”
Another well-known singer at UAHS, senior Keeley McCormick has high hopes for her future singing career. This past spring, McCormick auditioned for Glee, a musical comedy series that is presently one of the top television shows in the country. Although she did not make it, McCormick continues to keep a focus on her high school performances as well as gaining recognition from various colleges.
“I’ve done the musical every year, and I perform with the choir frequently,” she said. “I auditioned for a few community projects around the city this summer, and I’m also sending some songs to a representative agency.”
Like many UAHS graduates, 2010 alum Tyler Moody is continuing his pursuit of a singing career at college. During his years at UA, Moody performed in a rock band and the elite high school singing group, the Vocal Ensemble. He additionally landed the lead role of Tony in the UA vocal music department’s presentation of West Side Story last February.
As he enters college as a freshman, Moody explained that he plans to continue on his route to becoming a recording artist.
“My dream is to become a touring, recording musician, and I’ll be pursuing it this year at Belmont University,” Moody said.
Highs and Lows
Although underlying talent and various singing skills are vital for any aspiring performer, a genuine passion for music proves to be most important. Casey knows this all too well.
“My love for singing really came about when I realized how it made me feel,” she said. “Being on stage and singing has an indescribable feeling. It’s such a rush.”
Like Casey, McCormick said she does not remember a time when she had not loved to perform. However, her passion is nestled within her need to share her talent with others.
“Performing has been a part of my life, and for me it’s more about telling a story and entertaining people rather than fame,” she said.
Despite a deep passion for performing and apparent talent, performers are still likely to confront challenges along their road to fame. For Casey, one of her greatest challenges is overcoming the competition that exists while pursuing a musical career.
“There are so many challenges for singers,” she said. “And there are so many talented people.”
Furthermore, Casey noted that many musicians lose themselves in an effort
to become famous. Casey said she believes many will lose sight of their ambitions or forget where their passion comes from.
“So much talent can get lost in the scramble for fame,” she said. “Singers can sometimes lose hold of the importance of why they sing.”
The Road to Fame
Before Casey and McCormick can gain national recognition in television series such as American Idol and Glee, they must undergo rigorous audition processes to be even considered for the shows.
Recalling her audition for Glee this past spring, McCormick notes that the audition itself was fairly straightforward, but she did have to overcome a few technological bumps along the way.
“The Glee audition process was as simple as posting a video on Myspace,” she said. “I had to practice the song, and record that and a monologue through my computer, but that was unfortunate because web cams are not the greatest quality.”
As for Casey’s audition for American Idol in the upcoming summer, plans remain undecided.
“The American Idol audition process actually takes place in the summer,” she said. “You go through a series of auditions and then you may or may not get called back for the show later.”
According to the American Idol web site, auditions for the show begin in early June in large cities around the country. Prospective contestants must arrive two days before the initial audition to register. If those auditioning cannot make it to the set locations, they have the option of sending in an audition tape through Myspace.
However, no matter how Casey or McCormick’s auditions turn out, they can always find comfort knowing they will learn and grow from the process.
“It’s a little bit of a risk putting yourself on the Internet in hopes of something where your chances of succeeding are very slim,” McCormick said. “But I tried my best, and that’s all that I can ask for.”
Casey said she hopes that, ultimately, her American Idol audition will give her more experience in pursuing her musical career and strengthen her singing talent as a whole.
“I want to gain audition practice, to be able to share a talent with the world in some way, and to have fun,” she said. “If I make it, I’ll be with talented people who I can learn from.”
A Program Like No Other
Most of the UAHS singers have received a considerable amount of support from the high school’s award winning vocal music department. The department fosters vocal programs that are unique compared to others in the area.
According to choir directors Eric Kauffman and Amy Leacock, the department offers a variety of classes for singers to develop and use their voice, and different styles of music to highlight the individual student’s skills. Most importantly, the choral program puts emphasis on the teaching of music theory and sight-reading.
For UA 2009 graduate Lauren Motil, her experience with sight-reading and music theory during her years with the vocal music department prepared her for college-level music classes and set her apart from her classmates.
“Through Mr. Kauffman, I gained valuable skills that I use every day in college, such as sight-reading and rhythm reading,” she said. “When I got to college, I quickly realized that I was far more prepared than a lot of my peers.”
Motil, who in 2009 was chosen as a recipient for UA’s Keith Krieger Music Endowment Fund, an annual music scholarship for students who pursue performing arts in higher education, thanks the vocal music department for the opportunities she has gained at Webster University.
“The vocal music department at UA is extraordinary because students aren’t taught to be singers,” Motil said. “They’re taught to be musicians.”
With that being so, those who are a part of the UA choral program excel in each and every area of music, not just sight-reading.
After four years with the department, Moody is aware of how much his singing voice has matured.
“I’ve become a better singer as far as range, pitch, tone and style are concerned,” he said. “The department has a strong work ethic thanks to Mr. Kauffman and Mrs. Leacock who are amazing, talented directors and teachers.”
In addition to music fundamentals, McCormick noted that the department prepares its students for performances with large choirs, where balance and harmony are necessary for a rich, unified sound.
“Singing with a large choir, like the Symphonic Choir, teaches you how to work and sing with other people, which is important in a professional career,” she said.
Casey added that she believes the vocal music department offers a stress-free environment where she can practice her singing skills, strengthen her voice, above all, enjoy herself.
“The vocal music department is just a fun way to share my voice further, mix it with other voices and learn some musical technicalities,” she said.
Words of Wisdom
With the help of the vocal music department, Motil said she feels comfortable sharing her experiences and struggles with those who are just beginning their journey. Now, as she begins her sophomore year at Webster University, Motil advises ambitious singers to be confident and keep an open mind.
“Be bold. Never be afraid to take risks; never be afraid of failure,” she said. “If you try as hard as you can, and if you fail, then you have learned a thousand times more than someone who just gets by.”
Moody also stresses the importance of a passion and an ultimate love for singing.
“Never lose sight of why you do what you do, whatever the reason may be,” he said. “You should always love to do what you do, but at the same time you have a responsibility to serve others with the gift you have been given.”
For McCormick, experience and drive prove to be the most important aspects of an aspiring performer.
“For all hopeful performers—perform all the time and practice as much as possible,” she said. “You have to have drive and know exactly what you want to make it.”
Campbell also agrees that experience in performing is essential.
“Everything you do gets you noticed in some way or another,” Campbell said. “Every opportunity I have taken has made me a better performer.”
As she moves closer to her goal of fame, Casey said she sticks to one rule she cherishes above all else.
“Always be confident in yourself. Not everyone may like your voice but the important thing is that you like it,” she said. “You have to be sure of yourself.”
Most importantly, Casey spends her moments on stage channeling everything into the thing she loves most.
“I always make sure to put my heart into my performance and give it my all,” she said.
That way, Casey can always expect a standing ovation.