Reality Competition Shows – Just say no!

the-voice-logo-200I no longer suggest to my students that they go to  auditions for singing or general-talent competition/reality shows. I have seen too many people, get through early and then, and not be seen on TV, as promised?

Some have been on, and knocked off. Others were given performance contracts to appear on TV, and never were contacted, again. Not even a courtesy phone call from the show producers. Just silence. Over time, I have developed a skeptical view on how truly real these shows are.

I was watching The Voice because I enjoy  the format.  The talent somewhat inconsistent. Some deserve to be heard, and others… well, not so  much.  I don’t understand how they got on. Oh, ok…  just like it often is, they knew someone.

Then, the audience takes over judging, and that is a huge mistake. It becomes a popularity contest, not a singing competition, judged by professionals.

Look who won last year…  exactly, you can’t remember, either, can you? Well, I do remember, and she was young and country and NOT ready for Prime Time.

Have we heard anything from winners of The VoiceAmerican Idol, has produced many recording stars. The Voice is highest rated and has produced no one.

I like the format of The Voice. Contestants can be voted off from their coach and another coach can steal them, putting the contestant back in the mix, for another chance. Love That idea!  Brilliant!

Many of this year’s crop of singers are just so-so, and I just don’t see the big deal. I see judges get overly excited and I wonder, do they really need the money from judging, that badly?

Do these singers sound better in person?

I can count on one hand, the singers, this year, that are good. Not great, but good.  So, as I said, “This was the last year, for me.” I was getting any excitement about the season.  One of my students asked me about the show and if they should audition. I was honest, and said, “I wouldn’t invest your time in it, if I were you.” I explain the previous experiences I’ve observed and I simply don’t advise taking that path… PERIOD.

American idolThe whole reality show thing has run its course for me. I never really liked it and it didn’t grow on me. When my student, Scarlet, was on American Idol, it was exciting, until she texted me. She was allowed only two hours sleep, and was made to do a dance and learn a song in an hour. This was pure sleep deprivation for ALL the contestants, bordering on torture.

By the end of that stretch, Scarlet just wanted to get out of there!.  Then I saw another contestant pass out and fall off the stage. I am certain it was all  staged; nothing was real.

If you have talent, define it; be the best you can. sing with a live band, get plenty of experience, work clubs and pay your dues.

There are rarely overnight success or lottery ticket winners. From reality competition shows, only a scant few of the winners establish sustained, successful careers.

“Earn it your success with hard work. You are far more likely to hit the jackpot.”

That’s my take…

Jessica Marciel
Las Vegas Vocal Training

10 Success Tips For Singing Competition Auditions

Singing Competition Judges

Singing Competition Judges

I have watched countless singing competition auditions on TV shows. Now, having judged a talent show, I can tell you, how to get winning results.

Song Selection and Execution: Choose your song carefully. It should climb to a crescendo, quickly, and make sure it shows your range. Get to the bridge, fast, leave out a verse if the verses are too long.  We want to hear you really in control of every note.Do not bore them, with a ballad that doesn’t go anywhere.

You need to relate to the people, even if there are just three people there. You need to perform. To feel the song. Choose a song you love . A song close to your age (age appropriate) and will showcase your emotional range as well as your vocal range.

Breathing and Phrasing: Proper breathing and phrasing are  a must. If you are not trained, you can still learn a song correctly, by breathing where you would, if you were speaking the song. Take the lyrics, and speak them, pay attention to where you are breathing. That is where you should breathe when you sing it.

Then you need drama, and emotion. That’s why the song is important. You want the judges to have goose bumps. Move them. Make them feel something. You can go another way, and do a comedic number, but they won’t take you as seriously.

Song Choice Examples: ‘Nothing ‘ From ‘A Chorus Line’ is a great song for a Broadway show audition. Also ‘Blue Hair’  for theatre., ‘Life Of the Party’ from ‘The Wild Party’ Broadway show.  ‘Listen’ is great for pop.

If you are a belter, any song by Janis Joplin, Jesse J, Aretha Franklin, or Etta James are excellent picks… or the English singer Sam Brown, ‘Stay Baby Stay’.   But stay away from the overdone ‘Adele’ songs.  A nice ballad, ‘Wish me a Rainbow’ of the film, ‘This Property is Condemned’. Judges are tired of listening to Adele songs.

Some of these song choices are on the Las Vegas Vocal Training YouTube channel.

Top 10 Tips for Singing Competition Auditions

  1. Singing Competition AuditionsKnow the genre of the show, and what they are looking for. Look at video from past seasons, and study the people who got through.
  2. Choose a song that starts out strong, and if it doesn’t, start at the bridge.
  3. Wear something comfortable and flattering. Wear heels if you are a woman. Dress nicely, but not over done.
  4. Be comfortable onstage. Feel as though you belong there. Introduce yourself, and warm them to you. Breathe deeply before you go in, and exhale all the negative feelings.
  5. Look judges in the eyes. Then as you sing, concentrate on what you need to do to, and reel them in. Make them feel your song.
  6. Song selection will make or break you. Prepare three songs. I have had observed X-Factor auditions for my students. They were told to prepare 90 seconds. The audition person with the mic, asked for two entire complete songs from each of my students. That made three entire songs from start to finish. They even gave one student time to go out and think of another song. Be prepared and have more in mind, just in case.
  7. If they ask you questions, answer, clearly, loud, and with energy. These shows are largely about personality. If you hem and haw and yes or no, short answers, they will pass on you. You are not good television.
  8. Thank them after you are finished, and smile as if they are British royalty.
  9. When you sing, move about, as if you own the stage. Do not let them know you are frightened or insecure at all.
  10. Be as prepared as you can, and bring bio, picture, and an mp3 or a DVD. They will video record your audition, but having the tools makes you professional and makes you stand out!

The art of the audition is just that, an art. It takes time, thought, preparation, and practice. Really do your homework and get professional help if you can.  If you need sheet music for 16-bars or 32-bars or a  CD track, go to Tom Grieps, in Los Angeles, provides this service for a reasonable fee. It’s a one-day service. He will send a pdf of your song, in your key;  CD or Sheet music and your music is ready.

Be prepared, be yourself, have fun. This is what you want to do, so act naturally.

Good Luck!

Jessica Marciel
Las Vegas Vocal Training

Singers: Beware of Managers

jessica-with-hatWhen I was singing at the Sands Hotel, in my late 20’s I had already been in the business long enough to know the ropes. This time, being all grown up, I did not check with my dad, and I let a con man sign me as a client. He talked a good game. Richard Cardinale was his name.

He was engaged to a waitress in the Copa Lounge where I was working for over a year. She had been an original Copa Girl in the showroom, and I figured he must be OK. Her engagement ring was huge, and as we found out later, was fake.

Richard put my picture on a full-page ad in the paper bragging about our partnership. I had used an accountant to take all the FICA, union dues, etc out of the bands checks, but Richard said his accountant would handle it from then on. FLAG!!!

After a few months, with nothing happening in my career that I, myself, didn’t make happen, I grew a little uncomfortable.

Then, another singer from the Dunes, Casino De Paris show, who I would years later replace oddly enough, told me he was also “managing” her. We decided to hire a private eye.

Before we even got a report from him, , on the news was an arrest, in Lake Tahoe. Richard Cardinale was arrested for, bigamy, fraud and many other little interesting charges. Diane, the waitress was the most hurt from this, but I had to repay the guys their taxes, dues and whatever things come out of paychecks. It cost me, but I learned a bigger lesson. That wasn’t even his real name!

Investigate! In those days we had no internet, so it was harder and expensive to do it, but not doing it could have cost me a small fortune had it gone on.

When the other singer and I raided his office to get our promo and tax info, he had all the fake documents and law degree (also fake) on the wall.

I think some of these young innocent singers on American Idol. The ones that don’t make it, may be approached by people who may not be the real thing. You can get so caught up in the desire to sing for a living, that you forget to really protect yourself.

Recently, I signed with two managing partners because we had a common goal to make a musical together. I saw my attorney with the document, and he gave me changes to make. I chose not to make the changes because they were small, and I wasn’t doing it to get rich, I wanted to do this project.

The result was very sad, when the celebrity I was to portray was difficult to nail down, we thought it had a chance,  then, one of my managers died suddenly, Very suddenly,  he  was fine Sunday and gone Monday. After the shock and sadness, which we are still going through, I dissolved my agreement with his partner and the project  was dead.

I’m sad that it won’t happen. It was going to be fantastic and thrilling and my swan song to go out with something so huge.  Now as I just concentrate on teaching. I have more time, time on YouTube to look for talent, and  I’m not impressed with talent I see on Idol, this season. I find YouTube singers much better than the ones that being called, “brilliant” or “great”. I have yet to see brilliant or great since Carrie Underwood.

I realize that I’m in a small club who have the same opinion. I hear on Facebook, from other people who do think these singers are brilliant. But then again, The Beverly Hillbillies ran for a long time, and the public is not very choosy when it comes to art or entertainment. I am not a snob, I just think we should have standards, I love sitcoms like the The Nanny but I know it isn’t art. It’s crap dressed up like comedy.

So my advice to hungry artists out there is this. Do background checks and see an entertainment attorney before you sign on the line. It can save you a lot of money, time and heartache.

Jessica Marciel
Las Vegas Vocal Training

The Girl with the Golden Ticket

My  high school student Nancy, auditioned for American Idol this season, which were done last summer. She and her mom Laura set out for San Francisco.

I had not been working long enough with her to give my  “Thumbs Up” for her to  go and do it. I felt she needed another year. We pumped up the hard work and I got her as ready as anyone could for her audition. We chose Connie Francis’  “Stupid Cupid”, OK,  younger people would know it as Mandy Moore’s song.

The song was right for her because as you can see from the picture, She has beehive hair and polka dot bows in her hair, and cute little clothes and peep toe high stilletto”s.  We started at the bridge and gave it all she had, so they would be impressed at the starting gate.

Nancy is adorable, and is so much better now, then when she did her audition. I hope she does it again, because by next year she will be even better. She is glad she had the experience and she got the yellow ticket to go through, but what they don’t tell you is, contestants have to pass three sets of producers before you even sing for the real judges. Did you know that? We didn’t.

When I watch the train wrecks that are on the show, I remember that they made it through three sets of judges, SCARY.

Here is her story: She and her beehive do were waiting outside in line, sitting down because you wait in line for hours and hours. The camera man comes by and shoots who he thinks is interesting. He scanned  Nancy up and down, asking her to stand, and he thought she was really cute. A few hours later, they got inside, and she was sitting at a round table with 4 other people. Everyone seemed to be at tables in groups.  A man in a suit came over to her and said “Come over here” They moved a few steps away, and he have her a sticker to put on her dress. She didn’t know what it meant. He said, “You are through the first round.”  She went back to the table, sat quietly, and began to look for other people with the sticker she was given. She didn’t see any others.  She went in to sing and sure enough, she made it to the next group of producers.

The second round of producers put her through also, and it was so exciting for her.  She knew she had the beehive and stilletto”s on her side, she is not dumb. She has a nice voice also, but you need to really bring it and I know she knew she wasn’t there yet. She needs more work and we have discussed it. It takes a lot of homework to get there, you need to do that homework, and you need to eat, breathe and sleep music. What they don’t tell you is, the third round of producers was 3 days away! They flew home and then flew back again!

Now, it had been a very long expensive week, it was time for the final round of producers. Nancy went in with the gusto she had 3 days before.. She really brought it, I know she did, just knowing her focus.  The third and final most important round of producers, were, very nice to her. They explained, “that this is a very hard competition, and once you get to L A you need more game” They thanked her and were so kind. Whew, I am so glad that they were kind and respected her effort, and  passion, and expense, to make this audition.

I am proud that even though she didn’t get to LA, some producer”scout” whoever he was,  he saw something in Nancy, she is adorable, as you can see. He saw the special quality that we , who know her sees. It has been forever since these auditions, they were so long ago in the hot summer months. What we have now, is her experience with a huge TV show and a great proud picture with the golden ticket.  But, we are wondering, if the producer gave her the  yellow ticket?  Then, the judges  also give it, something is fishy here.

Well whatever it means,  Keep singing girl, you make me very proud!

Jessica Marciel
Las Vegas Vocal Training

Harry Connick: THE reason to watch Idol

harry-connick-jr-standingThe only good thing about American Idol tonight is Harry Connick Jr.. Can’t wait for him. The opening number is usually  pre-recorded and pretty good, but once in awhile, thought, hmm, this must be live because it was out of tune?

I’m going to skip all the hooplah on Lady Ga Ga, thank you. Better part of the show was showing rehearsal, and the stand in judges, a black man, a blonde, a brunette, and a white guy!! Very funny bit.

The contestants did a medley of Harry Connick songs, clever. The songs were pre-recorded, so it was great.  Harry Connick was OK, He is very funny, good actor, prefer him on films now.  Now we  have Michael Buble?  Is that mean?  But he is adorable and funny so he can stay.

So  the  drum roll  please:  Aaron says bye bye. Bye Aaron, you were one lucky guy to stay this long.

Jessica Marciel
Las Vegas Vocal Training

Harry Connick Jr. Swings American Idol on Sinatra Night

Harry Connick Jr.

Harry Connick Jr.

Harry Connick Jr. didn’t just mentor the week, he arranged every song himself, and led the band while playing piano and organ.

No one has ever gotten that involved. I hope they do this sort of thing again. They showed a lot of footage of Sinatra, which was sweet to watch. Can’t believe it has been 12 years since his passing. Connick really worked with these singers on every note. This is what they all needed weeks ago. Tina Sinatra and a wax figure of Nancy Sinatra were in the audience. They gave Simon a scarf of Franks’s.

I wish they would let vocal coaches work with these people. I just don’t understand why they don’t. I  don’t agree with Ellen because I heard country at the end of the song.

  • Aaron did all right. It was a little country for swing. but he was in tune.
  • Casey was second  with Connick, and he is very funny.  Said something interesting, “Sometimes it isn’t about the lyric, it’s about the groove”. That is true when you sing a song that has silly lyrics. I thought Casey was just awful. this is not his genre.
  • The theme idea is stupid. Not all singers can sing the same style songs, it is unfair to those who cannot do well on those awkward weeks.  If you have a fast vibrato, you won’t sound good doing Sinatra. He was all about control.
  • Crystal was right on with an evening gown, hair up and jazzy Peggy lee cool style of  singing  Summer Wind.
  • Mike Lynche was in his element with “Just the Way you Look Tonight” I love this song so much. He was so comfortable.   He nailed this, out of sight, right on brother.
  • Lee was OK on “That’s Life”, but after Mike, but there is no doubt this season belongs to Mike and Crystal..

Marciel over and out.

Jessica Marciel
Las Vegas Vocal Training

My 3rd audition in my life, The Broadway show “Hair”

I moved from L.A. to Vegas as a teen, just as my recording career was stagnate. I was on the radio, yes, and opening act for concerts, but Vegas was a road to no-where in those days. In High School i kept busy doing concerts with bands, and opened for Three Dog Night, Steppenwolf, Cream, Santana, among so many others. I was never star struck, It was just another gig, I was used to it, and singing had been my life, all my life. But  I still felt Vegas was a small pond.

When my group {Free Circus} disbanded because of Viet Nam, our keyboardist was drafted, and we just did not see replacing him. So, I decided I should go back to L.A.

Got an agent, Bill Loeb,  and was booked into the Bel Air Motel.   the first thing he got me was an audition for the musical of the decade,,HAIR,,,I had never seen it, but knew it was big.I looked young, at barely 18, I was small, 105 lbs and 5ft 5in tall. I didn,t wear make-up, and had long straight hair. I looked the part. I decided to sing ” Someday Soon”, by Judy Collins. Then they asked me to do a time step, Thank God for those tap lessons, Thanks mom. Then I had to freestyle. Piece of cake.

I remember Teddy Neeley because he was so nice. As I walked past him to leave, he stopped me, and asked”How do you feel about nudity?:I was taken aback, but answered, I am not ashamed of my body.,,WHAT DID I SAY? Where did that come from??Who am I? I did,nt get a call back right away, but did, about a week later.A second audition!  I had a parting of ways with my agent,  typical Hollywood story. Now ,,I needed a job. I frequented  this market in Hollywood, the same on where Charles Manson tried to pick me up. Yes, that one,, another blog, this time a little girl, Heather Bloom took a liking to me, her mother needed a nanny. Bingo, I had a home and a job.
Less than a month later,after the 2nd audition, I got the call, I was hired. I WAS HIRED.

I gave notice and joined Actors Equity, and started my journey of learning the very difficult script. All the songs were so crazy and nothing had any structure to help you memorize it.

I started watching the show every night, and began to piece it together. Then the staging, and harmony, Whew, it was not easy. But when I did the first night, what a thrill, how exciting, it was magical. This show was a movement, a piece of history..

I would do anything to do that show on Broadway today.

I discovered the tribe as we called the cast, was close and spent time together on our night off and was welcome at our producers home anytime. That was Michael Butler, a very well off Polo playing playboy, who had a big house in the Hollywood Hills. We spent a lot of time there, swimming and hanging out. Michael, to this day is a great guy, and sweet man, friend to the earth and ecology activist.. He is as handsome today as ever!!

We also would go to Santa Barbara to watch Michael play Polo and cheer him on. Then go to the nude beach and burn our bums off!!  I am proud to say I am still friends with my Hair buddies, either on facebook, or the ones who live in L.A. that I see often.

I met a man who managed North Beach Leather on the Sunset strip, Tony Good, we fell hard at first sight, and got a pad together. We lasted 3 years. I often wonder where he is. He was from the Bay area. Sly of the Family stone was a client and the secretary to Hugh Hefner, so we would go to the mansion parties, and Sly,s house on occasion. Tony was 17 years my elder, but to me, we were the same.

When the show closed, a lot of people went on to tour, or went to Jesus Christ Superstar. I went to Fort Wayne Ind, and joined Sonny Charles as a backup singer/dancer.What a great gig,, My life had a great start, and I,m proud to say that it all fell into place. Let The Sunshine, 1970,s here we come.

WHY you should want to be a singer

I am so disgusted with the contestants on American Idol saying, I want to do this to give my baby a better life etc.

NO… people!!!! You want this because if you don’t sing, you can’t breathe, because if you don’t sing, you feel half empty,because if you don’t sing, you’ll burst. Do it because you were born to do it, not for stardom. I never did this for fame. I just was happy making a living doing what I love to do.

If you do it for the wrong reasons, you don’t deserve it!!

Jessica Marciel
Las Vegas Vocal Training

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