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An All Star of a Winner

Last week the first Vocal Edge All-Star Champion was crowned.

Here Ricky, @ikir, shares with us a little about his real life and his experiences in Vocal Edge.

Encore: Ricky, first of all congratulations, it was a hard fought battle and I know that you turned out

some awesome music. I don't know anything about you other than listening to your entries, can you give me just a little bit of a bio?

Ricky: I’m 44 years old and I live in San Francisco, California. I have been in the media and advertising field for over 22 years. I was a recording engineer for several years and became a broadcast producer for a top advertising agency. I currently have my own business and I direct and produce television commercials for local businesses. I am also a professional photographer on the side.

Encore: How long have you been on Smule Sing!?

Ricky: I’ve been on Smule for over 18 months. After discovering Sing! and singing a few songs, I was hooked.

Encore: What kind of background did you have in music prior to Sing!?

Ricky: I started singing when I was 15 years old. I took various voice lessons and joined a few high school musical productions. In high school and college I was one of the lead vocalists in a band, where we performed at various school events and parties. A few years later, I auditioned for a repertory production company and I was cast in a few musicals including South Pacific and The Baker’s Wife. I was cast and trained in the same production company as the original “Kim” in the West End and Broadway musical “Miss Saigon” – Lea Salonga.

Encore: Would you like to give a shout out to any of groups you are in?

Ricky: About a year ago, a few Smule buddies and I formed a vocal group called – The Fellas. We sing a lot of R&B and boyband songs together and we have our own Smule account under - @the_fellas. Soon after VE Season 4, I was asked to join a group of other VE contestants called The Samsters, which includes some amazing VE singers.

Encore: Which was your first season of VE? What was your first season of VE like? Why did you audition and what about it was good enough that you wanted to come back for more?

Ricky: My first ever vocal competition was VE Season 4. I truly did not know what to expect. A friend of mine sent me a link to one of the auditions and one evening, I decided to give it a shot. I really did not think I would make it very far. But week after week, I kept making it into the next round. Each round became more challenging and it definitely made me try songs out of my comfort zone. I finally made it into the Top 10 [before being eliminated].

Encore: Who was your coach? What did you learn from them?

Ricky: My coach was Dottie (#DottiesHotties). She was an amazing coach and I learned a lot from her and to think outside the box. We were always on the same page. She would give me great advice on how to approach each round or song. I was the last contestant standing under Dottie’s team.

Encore: What was your favorite round in Season 4 of VE and why?

Ricky: My favorite round in Season 4 was the Vocal Edge Down Under which was round 8. I was not familiar with many Australian singers aside from Rick Springfield. I sang his “I’ve Done Everything for You” and was surprised I received all 10’s. It was a tough song but I had fun singing it.

Encore: What did you find most challenging in season 4 of VE?

Ricky: The most challenging was round 10, which was the Disney Mashup round. I have never created a mashup prior to that and to blend Disney songs using a non-Disney music track, was not an easy task. But I tried my best but I guess it wasn’t good enough for me to make it in the semi-finals.

Encore: Then you came back for the All Star competition. Going in, did you think you could win it all? Why or why not?

Ricky: Actually I had no plans on participating in the All-Stars. After 10 weeks of season 4, I wanted to take a break. But @MsSmasha convinced me to join since it was only for 6 weeks. She said to take it one week at a time and that I could always back out if it became overwhelming. So I joined and she was right (as usual).

Encore: Did you do the optional challenges? Did you find them to be interesting technical challenges or just a way to get points?

Ricky: Yes I did join all 3 optional challenges for fun. I found the Blind Harmony challenge very interesting and challenging to be able to sing the entire song with just the harmony and no melody. I wish I opened the song as a duet, so I could I have joined myself afterwards singing the melody to hear myself blend.

Encore: What was your favorite challenge this season, that is, the one you enjoyed the most?

Ricky: My favorite round in All-Stars was the Eurovision round. Being in the USA, I had no clue what Eurovision was and of course I did not know any of the songs. But my buddy @_MuTaS_ introduced me to a Eurovision song “Not Alone” by Aram mp3 from 2014 and I fell in love with the song. It was perfect for my vocal range. Although it did not score all 10’s but it was good enough to make it into the next round.

Encore: You won with near perfect scores on the final seemingly impossible challenge of creating a mash up from several different genres of music. How did you approach the task?

Ricky: The final round was very difficult for me. I tried several songs and none of them were working for me. I knew I had to bring it knowing I was against four strong female contestants in the finals. I definitely wanted to try a rock song to express my vocal abilities so why not a track (which Brett actually created) from my favorite Broadway show – “Rent”. From there it was trial and error finding which songs worked best and making sure they were in the correct genre. As the deadline was approaching, everything came in place. But at that point, I was still not happy with the mashup and I was planning on redoing the mashup with another song. Luckily, I ran out of time and decided to just submit the entry as is. Apparently that was the right decision.

Encore: Of all the songs you have recorded for your VE competitions, what one or two are you the most proud of and why?

Ricky: I guess one of my favorite songs recorded was the 2nd round in All Stars, the Acoustic Harmony Pop Mashup round. Being my second mashup ever, I wanted to see if I could blend various songs together and not just one or two songs. Fortunately the songs I selected all worked out. All of the songs just naturally blended together. Again special thanks to @MsSmasha for helping me select the songs and also to @Sam_ORSA for giving me a few tips on how to give it the extra vocal edge.

Listen To Ricky's Acoustic Pop Mashup HERE

Encore: What advice would you give to someone competing or considering competing in any competitions?

Ricky: To anyone considering to compete in any vocal competition for the first time, I would say just have fun with it. You have nothing to lose and you never know how far you will go. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought I would have made it into the Top 10 in Season 4 and let alone winning the All-Stars against some very amazing singers. Just to be in the All-Stars alone was an honor. I must say, Brett and his team did a great job. You can really see their hard work and passion for the contestants and the competition.

Encore: So what is next on your agenda with Sing!?

Ricky: I have joined the staff of VE and am currently one of the judges for VE’s spin off - Off Your Rocker. This will be my first time judging and I am looking forward to listening to some amazing voices. At the same time, I am also in VE’s Rent audiobook as the one of the lead characters, Roger. It has always been a dream of mine to join a production of Rent. I have high hopes for this production which is directed by Brett and Dottie. They’ve been great and very supportive working with our cast. Rent is my favorite musical of all time. I have seen several productions of Rent over the years and it’s also an honor be part of this perfect cast.

Voxfugit's comments: I love that each time he went into competition, Ricky did it thinking he would just take it a week at a time--not that he was shooting for the win. Seems like a much more relaxed and enjoyable way to go at competitions. Also, he clearly learned some things from the competition where he was in the top ten that helped him win in the All Stars competition. And isn't it interesting that he wasn't really satisfied with his final All Stars winning song, but submitted what he had. Many of us seem to be our own worst critics. This should tell us to loosen up, have fun and even submit that less than perfect piece if you run out of time.

Keep your eyes on the goal of learning and fun. Learn what you can from each challenge presented. Finally, remember that Ricky did not win in his first season of Vocal Edge. He was tripped up by his first effort at a mash up. But when next presented with a mash up challenge, he didn't panic, he used what he had learned, moved forward and ultimately took it all on another mash up challenge. We too can learn and build on what we have learned just like Ricky, in our singing and in life.


Optional Challenge!! But Why?!

As Vocal Edge and our contestants move through our triple audition week, its that time of the VE season when OPTIONAL challenges are afoot, whether people are singing Sondheim with a scream, Pattering with the Modern Major General, or simply not giving a F**K with Punk Rock Music, its a crazy time in the VE contestant chat rooms.

Optional challenges have been a part of Vocal Edge since its inception, and are another of the trends that VE seems to have initiated in the world of Smule competitions. Vocal Edge started the optional challenges as a fun, ice-breaker challenge, to lighten the mood while waiting for auditions to close and get everyone relaxed and chatting with a FUN, often slightly embarrassing challenge. In truth, the optional challenges are never intended to sound perfect.

These challenges have bonus points attached to them, allowing those who make the effort an advantage in the first round of the competition. It also encourages people to audition early so that they can take advantage of these time-sensitive challenges.

But do they have a hidden meaning attached?! Brett has been known to say that every challenge he sets has a reason, and these optional challenges are absolutely no different.

Take for example, the "One Word Challenge" from S1 of VE. Forcing two contestants to sing a duet but taking turns singing only one word alternately--CRAZY! HILARIOUS! But, it actually teaches you to be able to sing staccato phrasing, and to subconsciously separate words from their phrasing, making breath control easier to introduce into your normal songs.

The backwards challenge, from the same season? Again, absolutely hilarious, and highly confusing, but its purpose? To force you to fit words into phrases where they don't fit. Its actually not easy to sing Wings My Beneath Wind in place of Wind Beneath My Wings.

Other classic optional challenges have been:

Popera: In which we enhanced projection and vocal strength, by forcing contestants to sing Chandelier in an operatic style.

Bubble: Making just ONE repeated word sound interesting, energetic and fun is a tough emotional communication challenge.

Reggae: Simply getting the contestants to sing in a different (less popular) style and increasing the broadness of their repertoire.

Blind Harmony: An obvious skill that comes VERY useful on Smule.

There have been various optionals throughout VE, and we plan to continue them. The moral of the story is don't ever take a VE challenge at face value. Everything you do tells a vocal coach something about you as a singer, and everything you do that you have not tried before means YOU are trying something new, and, at the very least, you can celebrate a feeling and sense of achievement when completed!


Till next week, this is Jan and I'm off to Sing! to listen to some great music and make some of my own!

Comments, suggestions and feedback are accepted via PM at VoxFugit on Line or Sing!

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