This month we had the privilege of interviewing McKenna O. for our Student Spotlight. McKenna impressed us immensely with her strong work ethic, upbeat attitude, and broad, well-informed taste in music. Her musical interests–everyone from Etta James and Frank Sinatra, to Sutton Foster, to Muse and Katy Perry–are beyond her years, making her a student that any music teacher would be excited to teach. McKenna is in Camerata, the advanced choir at Capo Valley High School and is currently in rehearsals for “Back to the 80’s Musical,” in which she gets to take on the persona of Marilyn Monroe in the “Material Girl” solo. In case you need more evidence of this girl’s awesomeness, she’ll be singing at Carnegie Hall with her choir this May!
MM: How long ago did you get started with music, and how did you get into it?
MO: When I was younger I used to take dance classes and they had a vocal coach there. My mom encouraged me to join his weekend class and I quickly developed a love of singing through musical theatre. Honestly, I love listening to and performing all genres of music. Lately I have really been enjoying jazz music.
MM: How do you share your music with others?
MO: I try to share my love for music with everyone around me! I’m constantly singing around the house, and yes, like every drama student I do break into song in the middle of conversations! Outside of my home and voice lessons, I participate in my school’s choir and every musical we produce. Through my choir, I have been able to perform at many venues like Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm, and now Carnegie Hall this May.
MM: What makes you keep up your practice, and what are your goals?
MO: Singing brings joy into my life, so practicing is never an issue. I’m able to express myself through music, it’s what I love doing! A lot of my friends are really into singing and participate in choirs as well, so we motivate each other to always do our best and put ourselves out there.
MM: Who are a few bands/artists who have inspired you, and why? What genre do you like the most, or hear your own vocal style in when you listen to it?
MO: Bands and artists like No Doubt, Caro Emerald, Bruno Mars, Sutton Foster, Katy Perry, Muse, Colbie Caillat, and many more have influenced and inspired my style. I also love rock and roll from all eras and the greats from the past like Frank Sinatra, Etta James, Kay Starr and Marilyn Monroe for their songs and ultimate style.
MM: Can you share about a technique, skill, or song you struggled with, and how you are overcoming or have overcome it?
MO: Overall, I have had and still do have a hard time just letting go and having fun with a song, which can inhibit my voice and its possibilities. I’ve been able to overcome this issue by practicing and learning to believe in myself and my voice. Confidence is key for performing to the best of your ability. I also have issues with the placement of voice, which I am still struggling with. I am exploring different techniques with my choir teacher and my voice teacher to find the right placement of my voice for each style and genre. As cliché as it sounds, practice really does make perfect, especially with singing! It’s all muscle memory!
MM: What advice would you give to other students just starting out?
MO: Be Confident!!!!!!!! Believe in our voice. A person’s voice is unique to the individual and is never going to sound like anybody else’s voice, so just embrace it and rock it! Try looking in the mirror when you sing and watching the shape of your mouth and try changing it to change your sound. You’ll feel really silly, but it helps a lot to watch yourself sing, (plus laughing is always a nice release). If you’re a little shy, try some small groups and duets first and eventually work up to solos. My knees still shake, but it really does get easier and way more fun! Also, don’t be afraid to challenge yourself, and try a new genre, song, or technique!