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April 2013 article in the Palm Beach Post--writer Leslie Gray Streeter Tries Out For The Voice

Leslie’s Journey to “The Voice”
“OK, next 10,” says the annoyingly attractive woman, as we grab our coats and lipstick-dotted paper cups of coffee long grown cold and follow her down a hallway.
I’m just moments away from something I’ve waited five hours — nay, 41 years — for, but I still have the sudden panicky urge to flee. I am about 10 minutes from the sweet, soul-confirming realization of a dream, or the ice-cold, soul-crushing obliteration of one.
Whatever happens at the end of this hallway will determine whether I’m on the journey to be “The Voice,” as in the next winner of NBC’s popular reality singing completion, or another sad clown reel casualty.
We are months away from the moment where Adam Levine or Blake Shelton might be enticed to turn their chairs at the sound of my rendition of The Bangles’ “Eternal Flame”
Right now I’m just a tired but very made-up face in a crowd of thousands of other faces in this hallway in the Atlanta Convention Center at AmericasMart, on a windy January morning that started way, way, too early. Atlanta is just one of five cities where “The Voice” is holding open calls, meaning that there will be thousands of people just like me in Dallas, Chicago, New York and Los Angeles — singing, shiny needles in a haystack full of other singing needles.
Talent competitions make liberal use of the word “journey” — the doors slammed in faces, the drug addiction, the slow walks down lonely corridors with the mopey voice-overs. My journey has none of that.
I’m just a singer who became a journalist who writes about other singers. And that’s OK. Mostly.
Ever since my debut solo performance at 3, in the Montebello Preschool Christmas program, where I forgot the words of “Frosty the Snowman” and just made up my own because
that’s what divas do, I went the usual route — Glee Club, church choir, school plays.
I was solid but never the stand-out. That would be my identical twin sister Lynne, who was so special that while she was rewarded the solo on “Somewhere” in our senior production of “West Side Story,” I was awarded the role of Toro, who was a boy. A silent boy.
So for the next two decades, as I happily built my journalism career, I cultivated my singing on the side — I took voice lessons, sang the National Anthem at minor league baseball games and polo matches, and occasional backup in friends’ bands, including a stint as a Fabulous Funkette in a Harrisburg, Pa., bar band called the Cutting Funks.
I was satisfied. But every once in a while, I felt the call to sing.
At a robust and, um, non-slender 41, I’m neither a candidate for pop stardom nor “American Idol,” whose cut-off age is a very old and crusty 28 (sigh). Which is why “The Voice” interested me. There’s no age limit for auditioners, and even though the winners, including Wellington’s Cassadee Pope, tend to be very attractive, the whole gimmick is that their initial impression is auditory, not visual.
So last year I filled out an “Artist Profile” on NBC’s web site, describing my sound as “pop-folk-soul,” whatever that is, and got busy preparing.
If this were a “Rocky” movie, this is where my training montage of Survivor songs would go. I didn’t expect to win. I wasn’t even going to be crushed if I didn’t make the show and get to choose a coach. (I was thinking Cee-Lo Green or, depending on the line-up, Usher.)
I just didn’t want to be shot down immediately. I wanted just a little “yes.”
I started taking voice lessons with the talented Jill Switzer of the Switzer Trio, who helped me narrow down my song choices — my audition would be just one verse and one chorus, sung without music.
We settled on “Eternal Flame” by accident, because I was considering “Underneath Your Clothes” by now-“Voice” judge Shakira until Jill said, “Wait! What’s that ’80s song this sounds like?”
Turns out I’d been singing that song, a pretty tune with some power notes right upfront, since the late ’80sWhile I perfected my song, Jill encouraged me to sing in public as much as possible. I did a showcase at The Colony hotel’s Royal Room with Jill’s other students and did the “American Idol Experience” at Walt Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Orlando, where I got all the way to the finale show of the day.
Which is why I find myself in Atlanta in my awesome audition outfit — a velvet blazer, sequined top, skinny jeans and boots at a time of morning when only hookers and drunk ladies on their way home from the night before wear such things — nervously walking down the hall with my group of 10 to another hallway, to wait outside of a conference room.
I’ve been waiting all morning, beginning at 6 a.m., when my husband, cousin and I stood in a blessedly heated parking garage as the line behind us grew. And grew. And grew.
Also waiting is fellow potential “Voice”-testant Cooper Getshal of Jupiter, a veteran singer/songwriter and a consummate professional.
We snaked slowly through the garage until finally getting to the door of the convention center, where I said goodbye to my family and hello…to more waiting.
And that’s where I’ve been for the last five-and-a-half hours: Waiting in line to sign in. Waiting in another line to be told which row of chairs to sit in, before sitting down and waiting some more before being moved to yet another set of chairs, and finally outside of my audition room.
Finally, the door opens, and I try to read the faces of the people exiting. Are they happy? Defeated? I see a girl hug her mom and nod. She got a callback. My group of 10 is seated in chairs before a lone, smiling producer with a laptop. Oh, man. This is real. This is happening.
One at a time, we stand and sing our verse and a chorus. When it’s my turn, I tell him what I’m singing, and he smiles. He keeps smiling through the whole thing, and when I sit back down, I feel good about it as I listen to my competition — which includes a 50-something lady with the best voice in the room, a hipster kid with dreads and the perfectly genetically engineered daughter of Gabrielle Union, Kerry Washington and a Barbie doll.
The producer tells us he’d like a few of us to sing again, and that the others are done for the day. The 50-something lady is gone. Still alive? Gabrielle Union Barbie, Skinny Dreads, two kids who really just want to get out of the Navy…and me.
This time, I’m the first to sing, and I choose Aerosmith’s “Crying,” from my Colony showcase. The producer is still smiling, and I can’t tell what he’s thinking. I wait nervously, as the producer looks over some notes and then tells the Navy kids he’s letting them go. Oh, man…He then tells Kerry Washington Barbie and Skinny Dreads they’re being called back. Great!!! That means that I’m…
“Leslie, I’m gonna give you a ‘maybe.’”
What the what?
He explains that there is another set of auditioners after us, and that they might decide they want to hear me again. If they do, they’ll call me by 7 p.m.
Well, crappity. It’s not a “no,” but I’m not that hopeful, with all those other glittery needles in the haystack to come. For the rest of the day, as we get lunch, take a nap and have dinner with friends, I pretend not to be checking my phone every five minutes.
What’s that Randy Travis said once? If my phone still ain’t ringing, I’ll assume it still ain’t you? Well…my phone ain’t ringing. It did not ring. There was no calling back.
I would not be “The Voice.” Phooey.
I wind up hunkered down in a karaoke bar with a Manhattan and my slightly dented dreams, jealously watching a few shiny kids at the bar excitedly chatting about their auditions tomorrow. It’s my cousin that snaps me out of it.
“Why are you sad?” she says. “You wanted not to get cut immediately, and you didn’t. And to survive a little bit, after that guy had been listening to people all morning? That’s something.”
Right on, Cousin. Right on. So tonight, I’ll be watching “The Voice” from my living room rather than from the stage, and that’s OK. Not being on a TV show doesn’t mean I can’t sing. I just made my local solo show debut at The Little House restaurant in Boynton Beach, where on random Wednesdays you might catch my “Will Sing For Food Tour” of ’80s and ’90s hits. And I’m just getting started.
I will probably never be on “The Voice.” But I still have a voice, and 41 is not too old to try to use it.
And there’s always next year. Make room, Cee-Lo.