They came with music in their hearts and lyrics on their lips.
An audition pool of nearly 50 hopefuls from across Orange and Los Angeles counties and the Inland Empire has now been whittled to four.
The finalists of the Pacific Symphony production "OC Can You Sing?" know that it's almost time for a victor to emerge.
Nearing the end of its second run, this is a competition for amateur singers over the age of 18 who filmed themselves singing and submitted video clips between October and November. An initial screening by a panel of Pacific Symphony judges reduced the group to 15 performers, who were invited to Segerstrom Hall for an audition Dec. 15. Public voting ensued between Dec. 17 and Jan. 23.
With nearly 1,500 votes spread almost evenly among the four singers, Richard Kaufman, the principal Pops conductor for Pacific Symphony, decided to send the entire group to the next round. At 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, each finalist, accompanied by an approximately 80-piece orchestra, will belt out Broadway hits during the first half of Pops concerts, which will later star sax star Kenny G. Voters will cast ballots for their favorite, the results of which will be revealed Feb. 18.
Once crowned, the winner will sing a solo spot in an upcoming Pops concert.
The Daily Pilot invited Brooke deRosa, 33, a Burbank-based singer and composer; Monty Linton, 44, of Tustin, a member of the Men Alive Chorus; Amanda Strader, 27, a tutor from Dana Point who enjoys singing show tunes and opera; and Grant Yosenick, an 18-year-old USC music student from Laguna Niguel, to chat about the journey thus far.
Excerpts from those interviews follow.
Why singing? What does it mean to you?
Yosenick: For me, singing has been a way to express myself and channel my energy. Not being very athletic, singing has been my passion and it's given me a voice, an avenue to freely explore my real ability within the arts.
Strader: I think singing is something you have to take personally and enjoy yourself before you share it with others. When you think about instruments, pianos, violins, clarinets and whatnot, they have keys, and you're reading a sequence of notes, playing keys at a very specific time, and there's expression within your air. But your voice is you, your body and your air — it's all you.
Linton: Singing, for me, was something that came naturally, so I didn't have to study it. I stood out compared to the average person, so I took that avenue and it got me into a lot of fun experiences. [I've] been able to travel and meet a lot of interesting people.
DeRosa: I was a really awkward and unpopular person, and singing, for me, no matter what I was singing, was an opportunity to be some other character. I suppose I saw it as an escape from my life and was able to go into the shoes of somebody else for a while.
Who's your all-time music idol, and why?
Yosenick: Even though I haven't heard a ton of his music, Andrea Bocelli has been an inspiration to me. I was born with a chronic visual disability and so was he, but from that he rose to such heights, and his voice is just phenomenal, of course. God gave him this great voice, and he was able to use it to move people.
Strader: I have a series of favorites, but as a musical performer, I think Celine Dion is the current superstar diva. Her show in Vegas is something else, production value aside. She sings a couple numbers in French, and I don't speak French, but when she ends up in tears, I'm in tears right there with her. To suck somebody in that deep when they have no clue what's going on is an immense talent.
Linton: I admire Linda Eder because she is kind of a normal person. She is just like everybody else — she wears plaid shirts and seems like she would grab a beer with you after a show. She always seems to be amazed that the songs are coming out of her mouth. I admire Celine Dion and Barbra Streisand and others too, but they seem so out of reach, whereas Linda Eder seems reachable.
DeRosa: It's a tough one, but I would have to say Julie Andrews. I love her classical and Disney music. She's been in films, consistently worked very, very hard and has had an extremely long career, and that's something any singer should strive for.
Who or what inspired you to sign up for "OC Can You Sing?"
Yosenick: My girlfriend's mother suggested I sign up for the contest. One day I received an email from her saying, "Oh, Grant should enter this because he's 18 and he qualifies." And now I'm here.