Are You Feelin' It?
Hello and welcome to this week's Encore! This past spring auditions opened on a new type of singing competition for Vocal Edge "the spin off". VE Staff recognized that some people were not necessarily interested in the main VE competition either because of the type of versatility it demands or they simply loved and were best suited to a specific genre of music. With this recognition, VE opened two spin offs; one for country music, Country Crusade, and Once More With Feeling for those who loved performing musical theatre.
Those in Once More With Feeling had an amazing experience. The group bonded over their love of musical theatre and from that group of participants an unusual thing happened. As the competition was drawing to a close, many in the group did not want it to end or to see that chat room closed and thus a new Sing! group was born, The Feelers. This week's blog feature is an interview with two of those from that first season of Once More With Feeling (OMWF) who stayed on to organize the group once the competition itself was over.
Encore: Who are you and what is your role in Feelers?
Leila: I’m Leila. I’m 29, originally from Scotland but I’ve been living in London for over 5 years. I created Feelers with Caitie and I’m admin for feelers.
Caitie: I'm Caitie! I'm 23 years old, and I'm from the Southern US. I'm a co-founder and an admin of Feelers.
Encore: How did you first hear about the OMWF competition?
Leila: I’m part of TeamWicked and obviously there are a lot of musical theatre enthusiasts in that group so they were chatting about it.
Caitie: I accidentally found it. I had been a very casual Smule user up until that point, so I didn't really know that there were things like competitions on the app. When I saw that someone I was following had auditioned for a musical theatre competition, I couldn't resist auditioning myself.
Encore: What motivated you to want to compete?
Leila: Although I was pretty new to Smule competitions, I could see that VE was reputable and well-known by the way people were talking about it. I was really excited by fact that they were doing something musical theatre specific. So I thought I’d give it a go.
Caitie: I honestly had zero faith in the fact that I would even make it into the competition but I was too curious to pass it up. It provided the chance for me to motivate myself to work on things and gave me a way to get to know the other musical theatre kids on the app. It's always nice to be able to get to know like minded people. That was honestly probably the biggest draw for me.
Encore: Had you competed in a VE competition before?
Leila: No I’d never competed in any competitions before.
Caitie: Nope! As I mentioned earlier, I didn't even know that competitions on Smule were a thing.
Encore: What did you like best about the competition?
Leila: There are so many things I enjoyed about it but if I were to name my top 2 things it would be  the people I met including the VE staff, other competitors and general supporters, and  the opportunity to get honest, impartial critiques that have allowed me to improve.
Caitie: Like Leila said, there were so many great things about OMWF! My number one favorite thing about the competition had to be the community we formed, competitors and staff alike. It was such a loving environment. It was also wonderful to get to talk to all of these people who shared a passion for the same things I had so much passion for.
Encore: Can you remind me of the highest level in that competition you both made?
Leila: I went out pretty early to be honest. I think it was round 3? I couldn’t get my recording volumes and FX right as again, it was something I’d never done before but the VE staff were awesome at helping me and I went on to make the top 20 in the main VE comp. I’d never ever have got that far without the coaching I received in OMWF.
Caitie: I made it to the semifinals of OMWF! I genuinely thought I would be eliminated each week, and somehow managed to scrape by to the next round until being eliminated with a final rank of 20th in the comp. I'm still shocked by it considering how high the level of talent was in that room. If I would have gone out in the very first round, I would have been completely okay with it. Everyone was that good.
Encore: I remember being in that competition and the room always seemed to be busy, a common thing in Vocal Edge competition rooms. However, those in the room became especially close. To what do you attribute that?
Leila: I think the atmosphere created by the judges and VE staff was a large contributor. They were friendly, funny and helpful. There was also a shared love of all things musical theatre. I think a lot of people were very pleasantly surprised by the size of the musical theatre community. We already had common ground. One thing that really stood out to me was that everyone helped each other. Although we were competing, we wanted to see everyone do well.
Caitie: When you meet someone else who is into musical theatre, there's an instant kinship. The OMWF chatroom was like spending time with family right from the start. [W]e even joked about in the room by assigning each other family member positions. A shared sense of humor, a love for musical theatre, and an amazing amount of eager and helpful personalities was the perfect combination for quick and lasting friendships.
Encore: At your request, VE Staff left the Competition room open and shortly thereafter, The Feelers were created in a more formal way as a Smule group. Tell me about that process.
Leila: There were general talks around how much we would miss each other when the room closed and we’d already started singing together. By the time the competition ended, we all felt like friends so we basically didn’t want to lose that. Caitie and I had already been PMing because we would listen to each other’s submissions and give each other advice and I threw out starting a group so we could continue the OMWF community after the comp had ended. The name came from a VE staff member who would always drop into the OMWF room and say "Hey Feelers".
Caitie: The OMWF chatroom already sort of felt like a group. Leila and I decided to formalize it so that the sense of community we had could continue to grow. We decided to use the name Alex (agar_TES is her username) had come up with for the OMWF contestants as an homage to the people who enabled us to have a group to begin with. Without the support and opportunity given to us by the absolutely marvelous VE Staff, we never would have been able to form such a wonderful community.
Encore: How many members do you have now?
Leila: We have 23 members. Everyone is active and we all chat and sing together. We’re also working on some group projects too. We’re actually looking to add some new feelers too. Nothing crazy as we really want to keep the atmosphere that we currently have.
Caitie: 23 wonderful members. In the very near future we’ll potentially be adding some new faces!
Encore: Are any of you planning to compete in OMWF 2?
Leila: Literally all of us are going to compete. We’ve been talking about it non-stop since the first one. The standard is SO high though so honestly I’m just aiming to make it further than I did last time and I’ll be happy.
Caitie: All of us who are able, of course! I think we’ve been counting down days since the last one ended. I can't wait to see what other M[usical] T[heatre] talent comes out of the woodworks! (As well as what new challenges are awaiting us at the start!)
Encore: Following OMWF was season four of Vocal Edge. Did any feelers compete? How did they do? How would you compare one of VE's main competitions with OMWF?
Leila: A lot of us competed. All of us made it through pretty far. I (somehow!?) got farthest I think but there are others who are definitely stronger singers than I am but are more suited to musical theatre. I just took the main competition as another learning experience. I made more friends there and we added some more people to Feelers from there too. I also got to meet Nick (NickFancy) who was my coach. Getting to know him was really one of my favorite things about the competition. He’s talented, a lovely guy and always pushed me to improve.
Caitie: Almost all of us competed in season 4! I think everyone did pretty respectably for themselves! Leila got the farthest by making it to round ten. I made it to round nine before being eliminated. I feel like the main competition flew even faster than OMWF did, despite OMWF being a much shorter competition. It was a whirlwind of people and songs. I have so much respect for the staff for being able to handle that much all at once. They never once seemed phased when something happened. They dealt with everything quickly and with remarkable ease. VE is just an incredibly well oiled machine, and VE[Season]4 proved that in so many different ways.
Encore: What is the most important thing you learned from each competition?
Leila: In terms of Smule I learned how to use Fx and volume to good effect. I learned how to blend and build harmony to take my submissions to the next level. In terms of singing, the coaches have been really awesome helping me learn how to steady my vibrato and work on my breath control (I’m not there yet but they even sent me vocal exercises after the competition to help me continue to improve). I’m never going to be the best singer on this app (or anywhere close to it) but listening back to my first recordings and comparing them to the ones I produced during and after VE, I can definitely hear a real difference.
Caitie: I learned so much more about putting together a song, owning your artistic point of view, and striving for continued growth. Being a musical theatre kid can spoil you, I guess. You sing a written out part when and generally how you're told to. These competitions really encourage people to become more of an artist. I know that sounds silly considering we’re singing into our phones, but it's true. You have a million different choices about where you could go with your blank canvas of a song, and you direct yourself. You make the decision to shape your song. In addition to that, the staff give honest and sometimes tough critiques and give you some sort of idea of how to continually keep improving your voice and your craft. I've seriously recommended the app to other people I graduated with as a way to keep up their voices between gigs and shows BECAUSE of Vocal Edge.
Encore: Are either of you competing in other competitions? How do they compare to your experience of Vocal Edge?
Leila: We did some as a team, but I’ve kind of learned that I don’t really like competing, I just like Vocal Edge. It’s the professionalism and helpfulness of the staff, their organization, their desire to help people improve that sets them apart. Brett (VE_Brett) particularly has had a huge impact on me and I want to be involved in pretty much anything he’s running (as much as possible anyway).
Caitie: I have competed in a few other competitions. In all honesty, VE is easily the most professional and helpful of every single one I've gotten to experience. It's not uncommon to hear The Feelers talk about how spoiled we’ve become by Brett and the VE Staff when we’re in other competitions, because it's true. The staff is fair, honest, talented, and extremely well prepared for anything.
Encore: Anything else you would like to add? Or a question you think I should have asked?
Leila: All I’d really add is that OMWF and VE in general were awesome experiences for me. I’ve come away with a wonderful group full of people that I really consider to be my friends. The VE Staff are fantastic people, who really know their stuff and I’m so happy that I took the risk and auditioned. I definitely struggled a lot with confidence in my singing ability and I very nearly didn’t do it. I think Smule wouldn’t be nearly so fun if I’d listened to those doubts in my head. So what I’d say is, whether you think you’re good enough, or your nerves can hold up to a competition environment, take the risk – you never know what you can achieve and more importantly who you’ll meet.
Caitie: AUDITION FOR SEASON TWO OF OMWF! In fact, audition for everything VE you possibly can. I've met such incredible people and grown so much because of auditioning for OMWF. I really can't sing enough praises about the quality and standards of Vocal Edge.
If anyone has any questions about Feelers, please feel free to message me on Smule or Line! My username for both places is CaitieVance.
VoxFugit Comments: I competed in VE Seasons 1-4, and Season 1 of Once More With Feeling. Yet, Six months later, I remember OMWF as my best competition experience to date. Leila and Caitie mentioned many of those reasons. However, for me on a personal level the competition was a celebration of survival and persistence.
Three days prior to auditions opening, I had neck surgery which could have left me unable to sing -- there were no guarantees. However, I had been told that if I wanted to continue walking, it was a risk I had to take. I am grateful to God that my voice survived and I went on to the semi- finals of the competition before being eliminated. And thus I am reminded that being the ultimate winner of a competition is not the only measure of success for those of us who compete.
Your "win" may be as subtle as being willing to accept a critique on something very personal, your singing. Or maybe your win is opening yourself up to new musical challenges knowing you are unlikely to be an ultimate victor. In the end everyone who auditions is a winner on some level as they are willing to enter the fray; to face down fears and potential rejection. And, you might just be lucky enough to meet a new friend.
And Then There Where Five . . . .
The challenge, a simulation of a live performance of a Post Modern Jukebox track. It may have been a simulation, but the nerves were real. I checked for myself. As a one layer and done challenge of a group whose remakes of modern hits in time warped styles, I figured this would be an easy one where I could test myself against the field just to see whether such a simulation could create the tension of a true live performance. It did.
When the judge who opened the song for me PMed to ask if I was ready the adrenaline was already starting to flow. Then came the kicker. She opened the same song as I requested, but it was not the track that I had been practicing with! On this track the words were out of sync, I started to wonder if the mic level I had selected would work, and on and on. By the time it was over, I was shaking like I had during my sixth grade solo as the psychedelic Easter Bunny. When I explained what had happened, she let me redo it, but the adrenaline was still flowing strong. So, I decided indeed this was all the pressure of a live performance without the fun of the audience to interact with.
The All Star contestants, (four challengers and eleven All Stars) went before the "live" mic. Five emerged showing with perfect or near perfect scores why they should be the ultimate champion. It will be an All Star final.
Two perfect scores of 50 (that is, tens from all five judges) lead the pack into the final round. These perfect performances were turned in by quaintlullabies, singing from her bathroom in the southern United States, and by Sam_ORSA, singing during a short window of opportunity while visiting South Africa from the UK. Both of these ladies have shown their mettle by winning earlier rounds. And these two performances show that perfection can emerge from almost anywhere.
Close behind is our Season One VE champion VE_Saralinda_MOF who has shown in the past that she won't give up easily. Next in line is Season 4 3rd place contestant imlouzada whose flexibility and stylings should hold her in good stead in the final challenge. The last of our final round contenders is ikir whose two tens in the live round suggest one who will not just roll over and let someone walk off with the title without a fight.
Of course, as usual - you can view the full results for yourselves!
The final challenge for these All Stars is a mash up featuring songs from at least four of five disparate categories featured in earlier seasons of VE: musical theatre, disco, boy bands / girl groups, country and hard rock. The final outcomes from these mash ups will be incredible pieces of artistry and singing, I have no doubt!!
During October, Vocal Edge will have an unprecedented three spinoff competitions, all running concurrently.
This week, we wanted to highlight the sophomore season of VE: Once More, With Feeling, the upcoming competition for fans of the hugely popular genre of MUSICAL THEATRE.
Following on from our hugely successful and popular first season of OMWF, the VE team are back
with "Act Two"
Judged by some of VEs biggest lovers and performers of Musical Theatre, and with a judging panel featuring Nina, Dottie, Christina, Nick, and Jay, 'Act Two' promises to be a show-stopping array of the genre, pitting contestants against each other in brand new challenges designed to push the boundaries of their knowledge and talent, through honest and frank critique of the submitted performances.
You can audition from October 2nd, and we will provide more details on audition week.
Spread the word, and get ready to go on with the show!
So are you wondering how my "live" performance stacked up against the best of the All Stars? I would have been going home to fight another day.
VoxFugit's "Live" performance: http://www.smule.com/p/393598941_652651846
quaintlullabies perfect "Live" performance: http://www.smule.com/p/89439200_645998214
Any comments, questions or suggestions, contact me through line or Sing! via PM at VoxFugit. And don't forget to subscribe so you never miss an issue.
Till next week this is Jan heading to Sing! for some fun!