I was really excited to have the opportunity to go to the NY State Fair Talent Show! My friend, Olivia, joined me for the first day of the competition. It started raining in the middle of the performance. But I made it to the semi-finals where 80 kids performed on one long, hot day. I was fortunate to be one of the top 25 chosen to go to the finals. It was a great experience!
I got the chance to perform for the GypsumDaze Talent Show in the 9-12 year old division. There were nine or ten acts in our division with lots of great talent. It was neat to be able to perform “Feeling Good” by Nina Simone. My mom has been telling me that “Feeling Good” would be a good song for me to learn. But I never really liked the music until I really listened to the words. It is an amazingly powerful song and now it’s one of my favorites to perform.
Two years ago, at the Eagle Flight Days talent show, a girl sang “Rolling in the Deep” by Adele. As I listened to her play the guitar and sing, I was totally inspired to learn that song. Over the next four months, I think I sang that song over 1,000 times. (My mom says it’s probably closer to 2,000 times) I would sing it every morning when I woke up, every time I was in the car, when I was alone in the bedroom, out on the playground, before going to bed at night… you get the idea.
That one song strengthened my voice and made me a better singer. It was even my audition song for America’s Got Talent!
This week, I had the chance to compete in the Eagle Fair & Rodeo’s Country Showdown, which was sponsored by KSKE radio. The Country Showdown is part of the largest country music talent search in the country. Our regional contest winner will go to the state championship. The winner of that goes to a regional championship, then on to Nashville to compete for a $100,000 prize.
I was really excited to be on stage, but I was a little nervous to be the only kid there. I got to be one of four finalists to make it to the next round the following night. The other three finalists were full time musicians. John Dunn performs at the Alpenrose in Vail every Friday night and also sings at the Tivoli lodge in Vail.
Nicole Lewis was the winner! She is amazingly talented and has been a state finalist for the Country Showdown three times. She is living in Oregon, and is applying to graduate school in Fort Collins. Here is a video of one of her songs:
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to sing the national anthem for a huge sporting event? My dream is to sing the national anthem at a Denver Broncos game at Sports Authority Stadium. And today, my dream is one big step closer. I had the chance to sing the national anthem at the Denver Sports Authority Stadium for the Denver Outlaws lacrosse team. Here is my mom’s video of my performance. It was taken with her iPhone, so it’s not very professional. But as you can see, it was an amazing experience!
The game started at 1:00pm on Sunday, July 19. We arrived at 11:15am and were directed to enter through the north tunnel where there were people who checked us in and gave us tickets to the event.
Then we went directly to the field for a sound check. The people were really nice and gave me some great tips. They told me there would be a delay between my voice and the sound coming through the stadium speakers. They said I could try to just sing or use ear plugs. I tried it both ways and ended up with the earplugs. If you’ve ever talked into a phone that has an echo or “tin can” effect, it was like that, amplified. My real voice sounded tiny and the voice coming through the speakers was really loud. So I needed to sing really slowly to keep track of where I was.
After the sound check, our escort took us back to a holding room that was near the players’ locker rooms. We got pizza and hung out there for an hour. My sister, Gracie, our friend, Rachel, and I wrote our a message on the chalk board that said, “If anyone famous sees this, give us a call!” Then we left our phone numbers.
My voice coach, Stuart Whitmore, was there with us. I tried to teach him to do a duet with me to the Pharrell Williams song, “Happy”. Stuart and I spend a lot of time laughing together during our voice lessons. Then he took me through some vocal warm-ups.
People kept asking if I was nervous. But honestly, I never even felt butterflies – not even when they came to get me to go back out on the field. When we came out, there were a lot of people there. But the stadium wasn’t full. I was told that the stadium seats 76,125 people. And the stadium is sold out for a lot of the Broncos games. There were 5,128 people there for the Denver Outlaws game, which is by far my biggest audience yet!!!
The sound people gave me some last-minute cues as to when I should start, then we went out on the field. It all went pretty quickly from there. The camera crews got into position, they announced my name, then I started to sing. There were a few things that were different than the sound check. The first one was that there were cameras, so I wasn’t really sure where to look. But the biggest difference is that I could see myself singing on the megatron! Imagine seeing your head on a 40 foot high screen. It was incredible but scary. My mom said she couldn’t believe I could sing with the sound delay and seeing myself on the megatron. When I walked off the field, I was really proud that I’d made it through without any major mistakes.
Then we had great seats to watch the rest of the Denver Outlaws game. The Outlaws won 20-14 against the Florida Launch. We got to have the players sign posters and shirts after the game. My brother is totally addicted to lacrosse, so he was stoked!
I really appreciated the chance to sing at the Denver Outlaws game and hope to have the chance to sing the national anthem at the Denver Sports Authority Stadium again soon!
Last year, I had been doing some local talent shows. That was the first time I’d done any really big performances in front of large audiences. And I loved it! Mid-summer, our town of Eagle was hosting the Country Showdown, which is a qualifier for a larger national event. Winners of the regional event go to Nashville to compete for $100,000. I hadn’t signed up for that event because it seemed like a pretty big deal. But with the confidence from having performed in the talent shows, the day before the competition, I asked my mom to sign me up. Luckily for us… two people had dropped out of the event because their flights had been cancelled. So I ended up with one of ten slots to perform.
In honesty, I was blown away by the talent at that event. People had come from six states to compete for a shot at the title. At the end, the judges said that one of the criteria was “original title”. So if you didn’t perform your own song, you really didn’t have a shot. I was doing Taylor Swift’s “You Belong With Me”. It wasn’t very original, but I still had a good time.
My mom was inspired to write a new song for me to perform the following year at the Eagle Fair & Rodeo Country Showdown. The local Colorado radio station that sponsors the Country Showdown is KSKE Radio and their tag line is “Always Mountain Time”. My mom thought “Always Mountain Time” would be a great name for a song. So she bought a book about song-writing and got to work.
After several months, she had it to the point where she could play it on the guitar and also created a rough recording on Garage Band. I didn’t like some of the lyrics, so we collaborated on some new lyrics and worked a few of the notes to fit my voice. Every night before I went to bed, my mom would come into my room with her guitar and I’d practice the song. Then we were ready to record it!
Joe Bianchi at Mintown Studios in Minturn, CO, which is just outside of Vail, was our recording guy. He took my mom’s basic idea and turned it into a real song. On our iTunes single, it’s Joe you hear on playing bass, electric guitar, piano and organ. Brian Loftus was the drummer. They did all the background tracks over the course of two days. Then I came in to sing the vocals. It was an amazing experience!
I was in a soundproof room while Joe was in the control room. I could hear him talking to me through my headphones! And he could play back the track so I could hear where I needed to improve. The vocals are still not perfect. But we are going to re-record them in a couple years when my voice is a little more mature.
It was super fun to be able to work with Joe and have him turn an idea into a real song!
This was such a fun event! We had a holiday extravaganza at All That Entertainment / Denver Academy of Arts. I got the chance to perform with some really talented students who work with Stuart Whitmore, my voice coach. One of the performers was Amanda Hawkins, a recording artist who has spent ten years training with Stuart. All the performers were really amazing, so it was a privilege to be able to sing with them.
I appreciate all the time that my mom, Stuart and Kris Ann Russell put into helping me learn this song. For some reason, this song was really tough for me to learn. I spent a ton of time practicing to get it right all the way through. And I was really worried about the high note at the end.
It was the first time I’ve had the chance to work with Kris. She is the director of artist development at Nova Talent International. She taught me how to hold the microphone, when to move and when to stay still. As you can see from the video, I was a little nervous. So it was pretty much impossible to stay still. That’s something I’ll need to work on.
My mom was shooting the video. Someone walked in front of her, so she had to stop recording, then start again. There was also a lot of background noise on her recording. So we used the video from the performance and audio that I’d recorded while practicing for the event. It’s not perfect, but I think it’s more fun to watch than a video with a lot of background noise.
I hope you enjoy the video! We are heading to Merida, Mexico for a month to take some Spanish classes. I’m hoping to bring my recording equipment so I can post more videos soon.
When friends come to my house, they always ask where I got my recording equipment. My mom and dad made a deal with me. They said that if I paid half the price for a home recording studio, they would pay the other half. I had $200 from winning a voice contest this summer. So I used that money for the recording equipment.
I got the Mac computer as a hand-me-down from my mom when she got a laptop computer. Here is the rest of my set-up:
Mixer – Behringer XENYX 1202FX – $109.99 on Amazon
The mixer isn’t essential for recording. But it gives more flexibility by allowing me to add effects to the recordings.
Microphone – MXL 770 Cardioid Condenser Microphone – $78.99 on Amazon
This microphone is the secret to great sounding recordings. I am told that it performs similar to the much more expensive versions used in professional recording studios. This microphone also came with a shock mount, so I didn’t need to purchase that separately.
Pop Filter – Nady MPF6 – 6-inch Clamp-On Microphone Pop Filter – $15.49 on Amazon
The pop filter smooths out the sound of vocals and protects your condenser microphone from moisture.
Microphone Stand – On Stage Stands MS7701B Tripod Boom Microphone Stand – $24.95 on Amazon
Audio Interface – Behringer U-Control UCA222 – $29.99 on Amazon
You also need a few cables. A microphone cable costs around $10-$20. You will also need 2 sets of RCA male audio cables to connect the mixer to your audio interface. Those cost about $6 each.
Finally, you need a good set of studio headphones. I plug mine into the audio interface so I can listen to my voice as well as the background track. I borrow my mom’s Bose headphones for this. But you can get a set of inexpensive Behringer studio headphones on Amazon for $20.
We are getting ready to go to Mexico for four weeks in December / January. So I’m going to put together another post for setting up a portable recording option with an iPad. Stay tuned for that post!
My sister and brother love sports. My sister, Gracie, raced for Ski Club Vail, which has a really strong ski program. She also plays soccer for Vail Valley Soccer Club. My brother, Christopher, loves to play hockey and lacrosse. I am pretty athletic. But if you ask me whether I’d rather spend a day skiing, playing soccer or singing, I’ll pick singing every time!
One of my dreams is to sing the national anthem at a Denver Bronco’s game. Friends ask me if the thought of all those people in the stadium is scary. It makes me more excited than scared. I love the thought of performing in front of thousands of people. And I know the Star Spangled Banner really well. So I’m not nervous when I sing it.
I’ve never sung in front of a huge crowd. So I can’t tell you that I won’t get butterflies in my stomach. But butterflies aren’t a big deal. They help to make me focus.
Rolling in the deep was the first song I ever really practiced. My mom says that I probably sang it over 1,000 times before the America’s Got Talent audition in November of 2013. I was 9 years old when I had my America’s Got Talent audition. My birthday is in November. So I asked if I could attend the live auditions in Denver as my 10th birthday present.
My mom and I went to the America’s Got Talent auditions in Denver on a really cold day. The temperatures were just above zero degrees and there was a brutal wind blowing. We parked a few blocks away and walked to the convention center in downtown Denver.
There were a lot of people already there. Even though we pre-registered, we waited about 45 minutes to be admitted to a large waiting room. Once we were there, I waited another three hours to audition in front of the judges.
The judges are not the celebrity judges you see on America’s Got Talent. They are hired by the show’s producers. I auditioned with 8 other singers who arrived at the same time as I did.
While we waited to perform for the judges, I walked around the room and met tons of people who were there to audition. The people were really nice. I met Aaliyah Rose, who was later asked to perform at the Radio Disney music awards. We became friends on Instagram. I have loved watching Aaliyah Rose achieving all those great things.
I also met Clint King, who is a country western singer. He was one of the most talented performers in our group.
I had a fun time at the 2013 auditions for America’s Got Talent. But I wasn’t selected as a finalist. That’s o.k. because I met a lot of nice people and had one of the best days of my life!
I started my first “real” business when I was nine years old. For my ninth birthday, I got a fortune cookie maker from my Grandma Heidi. I started making personalized fortune cookies. Around Christmas time, I got an order from a realtor for a company Christmas party. Then I got an order from a friend’s mom whose team was in a hockey championship.
My first really big order was from Aunt Lori, who has been friends with my dad since he was a little boy. Aunt Lori owns tool companies in upstate New York. She placed an order for over 200 cookies for her employees. I used the money from that order to purchase a scooter.
I still sell personalized fortune cookies locally and just did my 2nd wedding this summer. I really love baking, end especially love decorating cookies and cupcakes. But my real focus now is music.
My favorite fortune: “Just be yourself. Unless you can be a unicorn. Then be a unicorn.”
You can check out my website at CalliesCookies.com.