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 www.auditiontrax.com. 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

The State of Singing Competition Shows

singing competitionI watch a lot of singing competition shows, and feel compelled to write this post about them. The first thing I have to comment on, is the mediocre singing skills of many of the entrants who have gotten through to higher rounds.

“I do not understand, or believe that these vocal competition contestants represent the best talent, out there.”

The judges feel badly when a so-so singer is let go, and my biggest annoyance is when they say, ‘You are a great singer, don’t worry’ If that were true, they wouldn’t be not chosen and going home.

I am listening to singers on these shows who would be fine for a cover band at a hotel. They shouldn’t be upset at that evaluation. They can work as singers. There just isn’t fame in the cards for them.  You don’t need ‘fame’ to be a singer with a career.

“To crave ‘stardom’ is the worst reason to sing.”

The sad, sappy stories really get me. I don’t mean in a good way. I happen to know, first hand, many of the stories aren’t real or have been greatly exaggerated. They make up a lot of this drama, to make the show more interesting. Why can’t you just be a good singer and not have a tragic past.

I tell most of my students not to bother with these shows. I have had some students make it all the way to the 4th day, on American Idol.  She was cut when they made her learn a new song in an hour and learn choreograghy. That was my student, Scarlett.

She made it to Hollywood Week on American Idol last season. When she got to Los Angeles, she was asked to function on two hours sleep, learn new songs, and then put in a groups with dance choreography. She is not a dancer, but a great, strong.. a Jesse J type singer.

So, they cut her  when she couldn’t remember lyrics to a song they gave her an hour before she had to sing it. She was exhausted, getting sick, and couldn’t think. She was dying to come home.

I have another student who made it through to the third audition, and got her hopes up, only to be let go before the last set of auditions.

Many people I know are tiring of these shows, American Idol is going downhill fast. People have grown up with it, and have moved on, I know I am very disillusioned with that show. I can go to a lounge show in Las Vegas or Los Angeles and hear far better talent.

Are you seeing what I’m seeing? Your comments would be appreciated!

Jessica Marciel
Las Vegas Vocal Training

Please… give me The Voice!

screamI have followed American Idol as long as it has been on. I was thrilled at talent such as Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood. It seems the last three years have been pathetic.

I just feel like they try to make it so difficult and to deprive people of sleep, when that is so important to a singer, it baffles me.

“A little sleep deprivation is good for them once in a while”

~ Steven Tyler

Really? My body is my instrument, I rarely scream like Steven Tyler does. When I do, I do it correctly with my stomach muscles, not my throat.

The lack of talent this year is amazing to me. I feel like I am watching Karaoke contest. No one yet has blown me away.

There were three strong singers from the Houston, Texas audition. One who became my student, when they had that 2-month break. Scarlett Peavey found me ion the net, and moved here to prepare for the Los Angeles American Idol boot camp. The problem she experienced was pain when singing. It was too late for her to get well, so when she went to LA with the correct way to sing from me. Her vocal cords needed anti-inflammatories and rest.

The boot camp of the Hollywood Round consisted of no sleep, exhaustion, and no rest at all, inflamed her voice more. It was not a bad thing when she got cut the third day. I told her to see an ear , nose throat doctor, immediately. He said she had over done it, and needed vocal rest.

And resting is what she has been doing since December. When she is OK we will record her and shop her and I swear she will out sell anyone American Idol produces this season. No one I’ve seen this season can touch Scarlett. Since we live in Las Vegas, we hear great talent all the time. We hear real singers, who nail it every single time we hear them.

Why is Jennifer Lopez a judge? She is a dancer and actress, who lip-syncs her records. Give me a show like The Voice that has singers for judges, and I am interested. I cannot even remember who won American Idol last year.

Former Idol contestant, Katharine McPhee, co-stars on a new TV show on Smash“. It is a legitimate show about Broadway. The problem I have with her, is , she is a good singer but not as good as the rival REAL Broadway singer she is up against on the show.

Having sung professionally since age 12, and now, decades later, I can still sing. And as a coach, my new career, I have earned the right to an opinion.

Singers need sleep. rest, coaching, multi tasking, dancing, and ‘IT’ these people need ‘IT’ and I haven’t seen ‘IT’, this season. That’s why I don’t watch American Idol on a regular basis. It is painful to see a good show devolve into a hot mess.

~ Jessica Marciel

Love, Peace, and SOUL

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

New Jersey? Again? Oh, Ok American Idol is back!

Greetings from New JerseyNow, don’t get me wrong, My mother was born in Ocean City, New Jersey, my relatives live in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. But haven’t we had enough New Jersey on TV?

Now that I have gotten that off my chest, I am losing my voice from screaming at the TV. I was excited about the new judges, Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler. I was so excited, and it lasted ten minutes.

Now having seen half the show as I write this blog post, I love Jennifer, and the verdict on Steven… unimpressed, so far. There was a girl, 15, Kensy, with a really nice voice, cute, good energy, style, girl has got it. First thing out of  Tyler’s mouth.. “uhh I’m not feelin’ it.” Randy agrees. I am dying. Jennifer is dying. Really, we have the same open mouth and we are dying!!  I do not know HOW she did it, but Jennifer got Kensy the golden ticket. I wondered if this was theatre? It seemed like a set-up because the girl was so so good.

The show still has a lot of time filling stupid people geeking out. I know this show makes a huge amount of money, and the sponsors pay more money for a 30 second or minute ad than it takes to run a country. Why would you show up in shorts and a straw hat to sing “My Way” Funny, cute, ha ha? I am not amused.

Jennifer keeps making funny cracks to Randy like “How did you do this for ten years?” and “What did I sign up to do?” Jennifer Lopez is a really good judge, she cares and wants people to be good.  Unfairly, for us, the producers prefer to keep the people who got through a secret than let us have a look at good talent.

----------------- American Idol Judges 2011 ----------------- Randy Jackson, Jennifer Lopez & Steven Tyler

American Idol Judges 2011 – Randy Jackson, Jennifer Lopez & Steven Tyler

There was a girl in the second hour that was absolutely suited for musical theatre. Jennifer understood it. She was not at all right for American Idol. In the end, the girl cried real tears and begged, and yes, she is going to Hollywood, yes, she begged and they gave in. Now, this girl has chops, for a musical, but NOT American Idol.

There are so many singing styles, they just are not always right for  every genre. A very sweet girl from the south sang the wrong song but sang well. She did “Midnight Train to Georgia” and she should have sung, Norah Jones. But they did see her talent and she got through, I don’t think she is good enough to last very long, once they get to Los Angeles. they have a challenge of learning songs in a minute and singing with a group, which is unfair to the good ones, sometimes they are overlooked in the group and go home when they should stay.

Ellen's Stardust DinerThere was a singing waitress from a cafe that I went to, in the New York theatre district, Ellen’s Stardust Diner! I love that place, and they are all really good, this girl, has “it”. I love how Tyler said, “from dessert to lunch!” They all loved her.  Devon Rush is her name, Don’t forget it, I think she is a contender.

She sang the bridge first than the verses. That is exactly what I tell my students to do. Start at your finest strongest part of the song, in case they stop you, you have to wow them from the first note. She did just that, hence the comment from Steven Tyler,“From dessert To Lunch” He got it! Finally, he scored a point from me. But we are having a rough start, I am lovin’ Lopez, but Tyler is scaring me.

Another teen girl was real nice, pretty voice, sad story with a dad in remission from throat cancer, she was going through and she will do pretty well for awhile, but in Los Angeles  she will have to work really hard to stay in the show. There are too many great singers to have good ones make it.

Travis Orlando from The Bronx: “They went and saved the best for last” He was the last one of the day, and oh my God, a little  John Legend, John Mayer, I loved him! I have to say this guy is 16 and he was my favorite. Nice way to end this hard to watch show, Goodbye New Jersey!

So, I am out of here,  more lessons tomorrow, more singers to polish and prepare for this crazy business of show!

Jessica Marciel
Las Vegas Vocal Training

The winner doesn’t really win: American Idol Chatter

I know more people who have been to a Daughtry concert, then a Carrie, or Kelly, Ruben, or Fantasia one. It doesn’t matter who wins next week. The final 10 or 12 have a better shot than the winner.

Why? Because the winner is under contract and has to record what they tell them, and won’t make a dime until the CD is released, and touring. OK, they probably give an advance for living expenses. The big number they can make for the CD,, drum roll,,,,,,, 100,000$ That is it.  That is not a lot of money. Not for being an American Idol!

The final 12 will make some money on the Ford commercials, and the short summer tour. Then they are on their own. The lucky ones, probably, Mike Lynch, and perhaps Casey, will be recording. No One will be as big as Adam Lambert.  So, Casey went home tonight, and that is right. He didn’t deserve to be in the finals. But I’m not buying those CD’s. I am buying the good stuff. There are enough little girls who will buy Casey‘s CD’s. That is our freedom as a nation, someone for everyone.

I am hoping that next season is more exciting, more surprising, and that whoever replaces Simon will be someone who helps and advices. I wish the Producers would change and let the voice coach’s actually HELP the contestants and not tie their hands.

I am guessing this will be a very close race next week. Lee has closed in on Crystal big time, and I am not sure she could emotionally handle winning. My guess is she is missing her child very much. She seems fragile to me. She reminds me of Janis Joplin, a small, talented, shy little girl, to whom fame came on blasting and blaring. I met Janis backstage at HAIR, when I was just 18.  She was a regular girl. Small and sweet, and much prettier than her pictures.  Whoever it will be next week, I will be very very busy getting people ready for the auditions coming soon to a town kind of near you. It is a busy crazy time for me, and I will start my vitamins tomorrow!

Jessica Marciel
Las Vegas Vocal Training

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