For this month’s Student Spotlight, we chose James’s multi-talented student Valerie W–singer, dancer, actress, guitarist, and pianist! Some students burn out on their craft after the hard work sets in, but Valerie’s passion for music continues to sparkle even through her chest-voice/head-voice drills, self-accompaniment work, Chorale rehearsals, and drama and dance classes. She was singing when she typed out the answers to these questions, a special kind of dedication that you can’t fail to be inspired by. With so many abilities, we know Valerie could go in any number of different musical directions, and we can’t wait to see where her career takes her.
MM: How long ago did you get started with music, and how did you get into it? I understand you’re a bit of a quadruple threat as a singer who can dance, act, play guitar and even some piano. Do you prefer one instrument to another?
VW: I started with singing when I was thirteen, but I was singing for as long as I can remember. I also have been playing piano since I was eight, and have recently taught myself to play guitar with a little help from people around me. I don’t have a specific preference between guitar and piano. When I learn a song, or just sing for fun, I use whichever instrument I feel sounds the best with the song.
MM: I hear you’re auditioning for your high school’s musical! Are there any other ways you share music with others?
VW: I share my music every opportunity I have. I am in Chorale, which is a singing group at my high school. I also sometimes sing with the youth band in my church. I will just randomly sing every time I’m outside or around friends. In fact, as I am typing this, I am also singing.
MM: What are your goals, and what steps are you taking to reach them?
VW: My goals are to become an actress, singer, and dancer. To get there, currently I am in dance at school. I also am in Chorale and intermediate drama. And of course, I am taking singing lessons.
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?
VW: A band that has really inspired me has to be Panic at the Disco because their music can be cool and edgy. But their music can also be really deep and just sound amazing altogether. I also get very inspired by Jessie J because she taught me that it’s okay to be different. I mostly listen to pop, rock, and heavy metal, but I love to sing songs that really test my range, such as “Chandelier,” by Sia or “Listen,” by Beyonce.
MM: Can you share about a technique, skill, or song you struggled with, and how you are overcoming or have overcome it?
VW: I really struggled with sliding from my chest voice into my head voice while making it sound like it’s all part of one voice. I’m getting better at it though just by practicing it. If I don’t get it while singing a song, then I take a break, and I sing that one part until I can figure out how I can make my voice fit the song.
MM: What advice would you give to other students just starting out?
VW: If you’re just starting out, then you should really stick to your range. If you like a song but it’s not in your level, then don’t try to master it right away. Also know that there are people who are willing to help. If you accept help, and keep trying, then you will improve so much in whatever you’re trying to accomplish. You should always be open to learning from the people around you.