Pictured above are Madison Perry and Ms. Sylvia McNair, adjudicator and Grammy Award-winning singer. Perry first started learning “I Know That My Redeemer Liveth” from a recording of Ms. McNair’s edition.
Growing up, Madison Perry always enjoyed performing in front of people, doing impersonations, and telling jokes. Thanks to her parents exposing to her the classical music world as well as artists like Elvis Presley, her passion in singing led her first to join the choir group in fourth grade. Fast forward to this June, Perry was awarded the first place at the Schmidt Vocal Competition—a highly selective one-day competition for students in grade 10-12. We are excited for her achievement and the opportunity to share her experience on that day with us.
What was your day like at the competition?
The day of the competition was a whirlwind. I had gotten up very early to warm up and to ensure that I was in good voice. There were more than 30 talented singers from around the country in the first round. I was the second to last person before the first break, and for the first round I sang “Stizzoso, mio stizzoso” by Pergolesi and “Frühlingsglaube” by Schubert. I felt pretty good about the round afterward but did not want to get my hopes up. I was chosen as one of seven finalists, and in the final round I sang “I Know That My Redeemer Liveth” by Handel and “Frühlingsglaube” once again. We waited a long time backstage while the adjudicators deliberated, so I had a few moments to chat with the other contestants, who were so talented and wonderful.
Were you nervous about competing with other skillful high school vocalists?
I was worried about competing, but I believe being nervous is a sign that you care. This fear is the hope and anticipation to do the best I could because I care. What did keep my nerves at ease was seeing some of my friends I had met at other competitions. It was so lovely to see them again and compete with them.
How did you prepare backstage?
I usually do not like to hear my competitors sing because it tends to make me anxious. While I was waiting, the door to the stage was open, and I heard other vocalists and the difficulty of their pieces, their tone, and technique. This made me a bit anxious. I didn’t want this anxiety muddling my own performance, so instead I decided to think about myself as an individual singer, to meditate on my personal growth, my talents, and my own expression of the pieces. During my performance, I was so focused that it flew by in a blur. After each performance, I felt surprisingly quite calm.
What was your reaction to the result?
I had been proud of my performance that day, but I was quite shocked. It was a really stiff competition, and I know that any of the finalists could have easily won, so to be chosen for that position was truly amazing. I was so overwhelmed with joy and couldn’t stop smiling.
Is there anyone you want to recognize in your singing journey?
I have to recognize my voice teacher, Ms. Jennifer Keller, who has taught me so many enlightening things and done so much for my voice. After any event I go to, she always asks for details and how my experience was. Ms. Keller is cautious about my vocal health but also pushes me outside my comfort zone. I also want to thank every teacher and mentor I have crossed paths with, but specifically the ones I had when I was younger. They showed me what it means to be a passionate adult and set my foundations. Finally, I thank my parents for their support day after day on this journey.
If you have one piece of advice to other singers who are preparing for a singing competition such as this one, what would it be?
Focus on who you are as an individual, and don’t compare yourself to others. It’s easier said than done, especially for me, but it makes life a whole lot easier. Just because one person sounds a certain way doesn’t mean you will never be able to rise to their level. We are all unique from one another, and the path of our growth and development is going to differ from one person to the next. Different does not mean impossible.
About Madison Perry
A rising senior at Saint John Paul the Great Catholic High School in Dumfries, Perry is an active performer in her school’s Drama Club and a student leader of multiple organizations in her school. A private lesson voice student with Teaching Artist Jennifer Keller at the Academy, Perry is a choir member at district, state, and national levels and is her school nominee for the 2019 Cappies Female Vocalist Award.