It all started last year.
Vancouver District Students’ Council, a group of elected representatives from each high school in Vancouver, had launched a new event on May 6th, 2011, called VanCity Idol: a singing competition between the representatives from each of the 18 schools, being held at the enormous auditorium at Vancouver Technical Secondary. As a test of school spirit against school spirit as well as the talent and individuality of the contestants, the event was an enormous success. Nikki Hammond, the contestant representing Killarney Secondary, won First Place with her killer performance, which oozed charisma and energy that surpassed her young age. This year’s VanCity Idol was certainly an anticipated event, and VDSC did not disappoint. In response to the explosive enthusiasm from the audience, the event was split into semi-finals and finals. At the semi-finals, the 18 contestants would be narrowed down to 8 finalists by the selection of 4 finalists by the judges and the other 4 finalists from the audience votes. The finals would consist of the judges’ selection of the Top 5, with the audience votes determining the winner of VanCity Idol 2012.
In 2011, I had won the title of PW Idol from the singing competition within my school. With renewed confidence and motivation after supporting my friend, Angel Huang, represent our school at last year’s VanCity Idol, I auditioned for the spot this year and got it! From then on, I began to prepare for what is to be the biggest performance of my life.
One of the most critical factors that determine the “make” or “break” of a performance is the song choice. There were so many to choose from, yet not so many. Since there was no guarantee that I would make it into the finals, I wanted to make sure that I prepared the best performance possible. I needed a song that would not only show off my vocals and range, but leave something to remember for both the judges and the audience.
On Friday April 27th, 2012, more than 600 people piled into the Van Tech auditorium. Despite the relaxing and friendly atmosphere among the contestants in the Green Room, there was an undeniable air of tension and nervousness as each of us went up to perform. I was certainly not an exception to the hard-hitting nerves, despite the number of performances I had done in the past. To put things into perspective, I was someone who got so nervous before performing at the Jazz Cabaret in Grade 10 that I started crying and sobbed throughout my whole performance. Ridiculous, right?
Then the strangest thing happened. As soon as I grabbed that mic, all my nerves vanished into thin air. It was as if some other part of me possessed me – and I delivered my performance in absolute confidence. After much consideration, I had chosen Crazy by Gnarls Barkley – a song with a funky beat and somewhat bizarre lyrics. Since it seemed much too generic and karaoke-like to sing the song with the instrumental background from start to end, I began with a slow and soulful acapella section. After that, I grabbed the mic off the stand and swept the stage as I belted away to the judges and the audience. Although I had some regrets, I finished the song off and walked off to the surprisingly loud applause of the audience.
Considering the fact that I was supposed to be part of my school band trip during the weekend of the finals, I only took the competition as a chance to perform my heart out. This unfortunately meant that I did not promote the event as much as I should have. Thus, I knew that I relied more heavily on the judges’ selection rather than the audience votes to pass to the next round. The moment the 4 contestants of the judges’ choices were announced, without me included, I believed that I was finished – which intensified my shocked reaction when I was announced to continue to the finals with the audience votes.
Now that I had made it as one of the Top 8 Finalists, I decided to fully commit myself. This time, I poured in all of my skills for a performance that would be the turning point in my music career. The preparation process was much tougher this time, with only one week’s time of choosing the song, practicing the song and selling tickets. Since I had never expected to become a finalist, I had absolutely nothing ready.
Before I knew it, the big day had arrived. Friday the 4th of May – the fateful day – and I was more agitated than ever. My heart was beating out of control and I couldn’t think straight. The fact that this time, the judges would be commenting on the performance after one finishes, was adding to the apprehension that was building in the pit of my stomach. Some contestants were pleased with their performances, while others were upset and regretful. As the minutes slowly ticked by, approaching my turn, I isolated myself from everyone else and gave myself over completely to my iPod. I let the music pierce me completely, making room for that inner performer who had possessed me at the semi-finals. My earphones were plugged in literally up until it was time for me to go on-stage.
Just like last time, my nerves disappeared. With nothing but a tunnel-like focus on the music, I began my rendition of the one and only Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen. Bohemian Rhapsody has been the toughest song that I have ever arranged and performed, due to the fact that it is not only a classic that everyone knows and loves but it is also a rollercoaster ride of many music genres combined into one song, ranging from the slow ballad to the opera-like passage and evenÂ an all-out rock section. It was definitely a challenge to arrangeÂ the numerous key changes according to my range, whileÂ playing the piano at the same time. However, I could not have been more honoured to perform this song, making it my own. I poured my heart into every key and note, channeling my “inner Freddie Mercury”.
Thankfully, the judges expressed their approval of my performance, especially at the fact that I had played the piano while singing such a difficult song. Knowing that I had given my best, I left the stage. I was ecstatic, realizing that I had finally gotten the load of stress and pressure off of my shoulders. However, my biggest fear had yet to be resolved.
What I feared most, even more than messing up the performance or receiving negative comments from the judges, was that I would let down those who came all the way out to the event to support me. What if I didn’t pass into the Top 5, and my friends didn’t even get a chance to use their ticket to vote? What if I didn’t even find out what place I would win, because I wouldn’t be selected by the judges? I had to look away from the audience every time I came onstage because I knew that I would tear up at the huge glowstick signs spelling out my name.
Thankfully, I made it through to the Top 5. Before I knew it, it was time to face the results. The 3rd place went to Kaitlyn Hansen-Boucher from Kitsilano, with a gorgeous performance of I Won’t Give Up by Jason Mraz, while 2nd place went to Jasmine Taviss from Churchill, who sang her own groovy rendition of Hit the Road Jack by Ray Charles. Believe it or not, I took 1st place – with more votes than 2nd and 3rd places combined! I was completely overwhelmed – shocked, ecstatic, thankful, and did I mention shocked? – and melted into an embarrassing mess of tears and laughter.
It was a true honour to sing with such gifted young musicians across Vancouver, and to perform my favourite songs to a supportive and enthusiastic audience. I could not have gotten where I am now without the love of my friends and family, as well as the amazing efforts from VDSC. Thanks to VanCity Idol, I received a $5,000 scholarship to Rock Star Academy as well as a studio recording session with Studio Cloud 30 and Fader Master Studios. This has been the biggest turning point for my music career and I know that I will cherish this experience for the rest of my life, no matter which direction I take.
Is this the real life… or is this just fantasy?