By Erika Van Pelt
Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Erika Van Pelt, and I am thrilled to have joined the South Shore Conservatory (SSC) family this year! I have been a full-time working musician for over 15 years, and after hearing from several colleagues about SSC’s amazing programs and sense of community, I knew this was where I wanted to be. I also knew that my eclectic teaching style would be nurtured and encouraged. With a diverse musical background, ranging from classical to contemporary training, I incorporate all styles in my methodology.
When I was two, I started singing along to Disney movies and old musicals from the 1950’s, and performed in an adult choir at seven years old. In high school, I was a member of the chorus and the select jazz choir. Multiple years I participate in both Rhode Island All-State Chorus and New England Chorus. Senior year, I was selected as one of two representatives from RI to sing in the NAfME (All National Honor Ensemble). At Berklee College of Music, I broadened my musical horizons, diving deeper into the world of blues, soul, funk, and jazz. Upon leaving Berklee, I joined my first professional working band. During that time I also performed with a cabaret troupe focused on musical theatre.
Life changed in 2011, when I auditioned for the 11th season of American Idol. This was a once-in-lifetime opportunity for me to reach a larger audience. I approached the audition as a learning moment, allowing me to take some pressure off the final result. Preparation included careful song selection, in which I chose pieces that would simultaneously showcase my ability and my style. I coached myself the same way I coach my students – warm up, work on technique, and then do practical song application, taking my vocal exercises and directly applying them to the song I’m working on. I believe that practice should be comprehensive, effective, and fun.
Although I felt nervous about auditioning, I used my nerves to keep a laser focus on my breathing. Like a form of meditation, it’s important to be aware of your entire body when you sing or play an instrument. I remember when I finally auditioned for the celebrity judges on American Idol, I had already been through several rounds of lower level producers. The tension was mounting, and I knew I needed a really strong performance to get my ticket to Hollywood.
Waiting alone in a long hallway, I heard this husky voice behind me say, “Excuse me, Miss.”
I turned around, and there was Steven Tyler of Aerosmith, with a big grin on his face. Genuinely he inquired, “Are you getting ready to sing for us?” Smiling back, I could only mutter “Yes.” In the presence of rock royalty, I quickly understood the importance of the moment. He humanized the entire experience for me. Once into the audition, instincts took over, and I just sang. It was one of the best moments of my life.
It can be difficult to combat worried feelings in an audition setting, but preparation is your biggest weapon against them. Nervousness can attempt to hi-jack our brains when we are about to perform. If it does, the muscle memory built during practice can temporarily take over, ensuring a great performance.
South Shore Conservatory offers Festival Audition Workshop, from 12 noon to 3 pm on Sunday, October 27, at One Conservatory Drive in Hingham, is an invaluable opportunity, open to all students preparing to audition for All-State, District or SEMSBA, to perform, receive feedback, share stories, and learn important tips and preparation ideas. Best of all, it’s FREE to both SSC and non-SSC students! Reserve your spot by calling 781-749-7565, x10 before October 25, and take advantage of this great opportunity, or to sign up for voice lessons with Erika.
Learn more about voice instructor Erika Van Pelt at https://sscmusic.org/erika-van-pelt/.