After six years as a medical secretary, Michelle Walker dreams of something more.
Walker, 28, of La Crosse, Wis., decided to take a chance at reaching her ultimate dream of being in the spotlight. On March 3, Walker will audition for season three of NBC’s “The Voice.”
She will attend the preliminary, untelevised, auditions that will be held on March 3, in Chicago, Ill. There, judges and producers will listen as Walker and other potential contestants take turns singing lines of modern song. If the judges like what they hear, the singer can then perform a prepared piece to background music. Only if the singer impresses judges then will they be allowed to move to the televised auditions.
Walker and her husband have been trying to start a family for the last five years. When the opportunity arose for her to try out for “The Voice,” she stopped taking fertility medication, putting her family life on hold, in hopes of achieving her biggest dream.
“Maybe this is God’s way of saying (I) need to do something else first,” she said.
Walker said she had the opportunity to try out for the popular singing competition show, “American Idol,” but said she was too much of a “realist.” She said she would convince herself that she had too much work to do, too many bills to pay or couldn’t leave her family. Now, Walker is putting herself first. As the cut-off age for “American Idol” is 29, Walker would be too old to audition the next time she had the chance.
Walker said that if she doesn’t make it to the televised competition of “The Voice,” she will likely audition again for a future season and she would continue to perform locally.
"I don't plan on giving up any time soon," said Walker.
Walker performed in two community theater musical performances; Jekyll and Hyde, which stood as her acting career debut, and Nunsense, where she played Sister Robert Anne, one of five main characters that had multiple solo performances.
On top of performing live music at Acoustic Café in Winona with her husband, Steven, in 2002, Walker competed in the Ms. Goodview pageant, where she sang for the talent portion, with long-time friend Casey Acord.
“(Her voice is) very unique and moving, she can do a lot of different things with it,” said Acord.
Walker also competed in a local competition in La Crosse, Wis., similar to “American Idol," where she eliminated 16 competitors during the 12-week competition and eventually took home the grand prize of $500.
Even with years of experience performing in front of crowds, and the comfort Walker gets from being on stage, which she calls her “happy place”, she said she is nervous to finally take the chance that could result in her dream career.
“Auditions are nerve-wracking for everybody,” said Walker. “That never goes away.”
Dr. Suzanne Draayer, a voice professor at Winona State University in Winona, Minn., said some singers on reality singing shows have not had the kind of preparation needed to compete at such an intense level.
“Many of these singers sing a few hours a week and then they are expected to sing for hours each night. That is the equivalent of running a few miles a week to suddenly running a marathon without training for it,” said Draayer.
Walker has spent almost every day practicing for the opportunity to make it big. She sings along to tunes at home, in the car or at work with the hope that she would one day be able to take this shot.
“My friend Maggie had this van,” said Walker. “The radio didn’t work. (My friends) made me sing to entertain them when we would go driving around Winona ... and they would not move the van until I started singing.”
Walker said she has all the support anyone could ask for; there are no dream-crushers in her world.
“No one has ever said, ‘You shouldn’t.’ Anyone that has ever said anything about it said, ‘you should go for it, you should do this because you’re really talented,’” said Walker.
Walker gets support from her friends and family but her husband, Steven, and her mother-in-law, Dee Kortas, are her biggest fans of all.
“My mother-in-law has been pushing me to do this since ‘The Voice’ started,” said Walker. “She’s like, ‘you need to be on this show because you’re better than all the people.’”
Kortas plans to accompany her to the audition, just a few days after having surgery on her shoulder, because Walker’s husband can’t take the time off of work as a local radio disk jockey. Walker said Kortas was planning to drive the two of them as well as Walker’s father-in-law and sister-in-law down to Chicago in her camper to provide a more luxurious way of killing time as Walker has heard there is a lot waiting around to do at these auditions. But with the consideration of the heavy Chicago traffic, they thought a car might be a safer method of travel.
Although positive reinforcement is important to Walker’s confidence as a singer, she sometimes prefers a more structured method of support to increase her success.
“(Steven) says, ‘You could sing the phone book and I would love it. But if you’re not on your game; I’m gonna tell you.’ And that’s exactly what I need,” said Walker.
Draayer said a strong support system would also include a vocal coach. Although Walker has not had any extensive professional training, “The Voice” will provide a celebrity vocal coach for her if she makes it past the preliminary auditions and the first round of the televised competition. And Walker already knows which coach she’s pulling for.
“If they all turned around, I’d pick Blake Shelton,” said Walker, referring to the popular country music artist who is known for his chart-topping records “Austin,” “Red River Blue,” “Honeybee” and “Some Beach.”
Walker said she can sing a variety of musical styles but describes herself mostly as Blues, Rock, Country and Pop-punk. With that, she knows she would be successful with any of the coaches on the show but through her own research and investigation, she has heard many positives about working with the country star.
“The one thing that might be bad when it comes to that is if they say ‘well what kind of style are you, what kind of musician are you, what kind of artist are you?’” Walker said. “And I’d say, I’m an eclectic one.”
Walker said her musical style is difficult to define because her musical interests are not limited to any one genre.
Having such a broad range of styles is making it difficult for Walker to select audition songs.
Walker said she wants a song that is well known so the judges can compare her voice to the original piece, but she also wants a song that will not be over-performed by other contestants.
If she makes it to the second round of the preliminary auditions, she will need multiple modern but unique song selections.
Song selection is weighing on her nerves; but Walker said she feels both excited and nervous as the audition day approaches.
“It’s about time she took a shot,” said Walker’s husband, Steven. “She had convinced herself that it was too much of a gamble, that our family was more important; I'm glad she realizes that she deserves to take this shot.”