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Sammie Zonana is singer/songwriter and native Austinite. She provides live entrainment for weddings and special events. Reviews are provides by The Knot

My Experience On NBC's The Voice

Part I: Open Call in Philly

I could see the line of people forming from my hotel window. It stretched around the corner and continued down the block. My stomach clenched. I had never wanted to audition for The Voice. I’d been encouraged by several friends and family for the last couple years. They’d say “You should audition for American Idol!” or “Why don’t you audition for The Voice?” I guess they finally managed to wear me down and get me excited about the idea.

It was 35 degrees that morning in Philadelphia. I strolled to the end of the line sporting a beanie, scarf, gloves and ski jacket. I was thankful to be bundled up and warm because I waited outside for about 45 minutes. I watched hulu on my phone and did my best to ignore the swarm of people buzzing around me. I made it inside by 11:00am.

I was led up an escalator and into a giant, open room filled with hundreds of people. The room was divided into two areas. In Area 1 everyone was organized into several different lines. I felt like I was standing in a mosh pit. The room was so crowed I couldn’t tell what the process was. It seemed like a total mess, but we were moving, so I tried to trust the system. I plugged my ears, closed my eyes, and swallowed the nerves. 

When I made it to the front of the first line, security checked to make sure my ID matched the name on my Artist Pass. We were then looped through what felt like airport security to have our bags and bodies checked for weapons and hazards. They stamped my wrist with a blue star and ushered me into another long line of people. This was Area 2.

As I reached the front, I saw a long stretch of tables numbered from 1-10 in yellow tape on the ground. I was told to head to table 3. A lady checked my artist pass, my signed released, and my drivers license. She stabled the papers together, handed them back to me, and put a yellow band around my wrist. She pointed to a line forming behind her.

“Stand single file. Stand single file. Stand single file, please!”

It was about 12:45 pm. I don’t think the guy in charge of us had had lunch yet. My group was led into another room. This room had chairs and I was thankful. I had been standing for 2.5 hours. This was my least favorite part of the experience. This was the boiler room. There were people practicing their audition, standing on chairs, trying to start the wave, handing out their demos - just absolute madness. 2 guys jamming on guitars turned into 20 people singing and dancing. It was loud - really loud. And each time a group was ushered out of the room (toward what we all assumed was our audition) they started screaming and hollering.

45 minutes later, I was moved for the last time. We formed a line outside a hallway of conference rooms. We were close. The line inched forward. I was counted off into a set of 10 and taken around the corner. This is was it. Each conference room was label: Audition Room 1, Audition Room 2, Audition Room 3, ect. We marched down the entire hallway. Audition Room 8 had 10 chairs lined up outside it. I sat down. A guy came by to take our artist passes. He cut the bands off our wrists and told us to turn our phones off.

We sat there for 20 minutes. That 20 minutes felt longer than the entire 4 hours before it. Then finally, the doors of Audition Room 8 swung open and 10 people came piling out. None of them had red, call back cards. When the room cleared, we were told to stand and enter. 

At the front of the room, a girl with long brown hair and glasses sat at a table in front of a laptop. There were 2 sets of 5 chairs angled at 45 degrees toward the table. On the ground in front and between them was a small piece of yellow tape.

"When I call your name, stand on the yellow tape, introduce yourself, say what you will be singing, and begin. You get 45 seconds, so start where you think is best. It will go faster than you think. I will be typing and writing, but I’m still listening."

My mouth was dry. I took a huge sip of water. The judge grabbed the first Artist Passes from the stack. She called the first name. Everyone’s eyes shifted. A girl stood slowly and walked to the tape. She began. About 15 seconds in she forgot the words and asked to start over. The judge told her to start where she had stopped. She forgot again. My heart hurt for her. Her hands were shaking as she sat back down. 3 more people went and then I heard my name called.

"Hello, my name is Sammie Zonana. I’ll be singing All Of Me by John Legend."

I took a deep breath and it was over as soon as I had started. I didn’t even make it through the whole chorus. I had thought we would get to sing through the a verse and chorus, but the time cut me off. I had been practicing and perfecting that song for weeks. I sat down thinking, "I nailed it." 

Then a girl named Rachel was called.  After her performance I watched the judge place Rachel’s Artist Pass in a stack by itself. She had put everyone else’s together. I felt defeated. The last singer finished and I gripped under my chair waiting to hear the bad news.

"Samantha, do you have a second song prepared?"

I straightened up. “Yes. Marry You by Bruno Mars.” She motioned to the yellow tape. All my nerves were gone. I performed with ease and comfort. I made eye contact, I smiled, I had fun, I took my seat.

"Rachel, do you have a second song prepared?"

Rachel took to the tape and had a very rocky start. My competitiveness came out and thought, “I’m gonna win this battle!” She hit the chorus and her voice found more strength, but she was soon cut off and returned to her seat. With everyone seated, we waited for the news. My heart was racing. I held my breath as the judge began to speak.

"Thank you everyone for coming out today. Rachel will you please stay?"

My heart sunk. I was disappointed. I swung my jacket on and grabbed my bag from under the seat. The guy next to me looked over and said, “Great job, Rachel. Congratulations.” I just smiled and said, “I’m not Rachel.”

Part 2: The Random Email

to be continued…

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