From the time I was a little girl, I believe that I was destined to be a performer. My mother likes to say that I was trying to sing before I could talk, and that I was dancing before I even took my first teetering steps. My first real experience with the stage was when I was barely 4 years old, at my great grandmother’s nursing home. It was Christmastime, and the ladies that were supposed to show up and sing were late. All of the elderly people, with their wheelchairs and lap blankets, were stuck without entertainment. So I, an optimistic little 4 year old in a red velvet dress and ribbons in my hair, took the stage. Really, I just sang sloppy renditions of “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” and “Frosty the Snowman,” but that’s not what it felt like. As everyone cheered for me, with frail hands and snake-like oxygen tubes coming from their noses, I took my first bow as a star. From then, everyone around me realized just how destined I was to be on stage. I just didn’t realize it until much later.
I began taking voice lessons in 5th grade, when I was 10. That’s where my hobby turned into a passion. My intimate friends began to include Rodgers and Hammerstein, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Stephen Schwartz, George and Ira Gershwin, and Leonard Bernstein. These composers sparked a fire inside me that couldn’t be extinguished. However, the past 7 years haven’t exactly been easy. It always seemed as though those around me were more successful than me; that I was an afterthought for my directors and instructors. But I didn’t let those ideas get to me. I refused to. Musical theater, especially singing, was something that I loved and I wasn’t going to let anything get in the way of that. For the past 3 summers, I’ve participated in a program called CAP 21. It’s a free musical theater training intensive held at a local college. I would work until I ached, physically and mentally. The program pushed its students until they were exhausted. But what they taught was more than valuable. In between my second year at CAP 21, in 2015, and this year’s program, in 2016, I earned the lead role in our school’s production of The Wedding Singer. I couldn’t believe it. When the director offered me that part, I actually burst into tears because I couldn’t believe that I was good enough. But I was definitely good enough, and I earned that part on my own hard work. That experience made going into my last year of CAP 21 that much more satisfying. My work still hadn’t yet completely paid off in the way that I wanted it to.
I worked even harder than I had before this past summer. New vocal techniques were learned, jazz and ballet (the two dance classes) were conquered, and I made my presence known. That’s when I felt like my work was really paying off for me. My instructors gave me the opening solo in our showcase, a duet with a very nice guy in the program, and my very own song. The solo that I got is what really terrified me, but excited me. They handed me “Somebody to Love” from the musical We Will Rock U, which was written using all of the band Queen’s music. The song choice completely bowled me over. I’m a soprano 1, not a rockstar. My singing style is closer to that of Julie Andrews than it is to Freddie Mercury! But regardless, I was determined to give the song my all. Of course, my instructors wouldn’t have handed it to me unless I could handle it.
It was honestly the hardest song I’ve ever learned, but that didn’t matter when I stepped onto that tiny stage. I remember the lights being so bright that I could barely see the first row of people, let alone to the back of the auditorium. Somehow, my legs led me over to my starting position on a black cube that was set on the stage. I had to remind myself to not fidget, even though the matte red lipstick I had on made me want to lick my lips because they felt so chapped. I took a deep, shaky breath as a clear bell tone rang out through the auditorium. The lights were up on only me. All of my back up singers were frozen in position. Singing to them, I was magically transformed. No longer was I just Mikayla. I was a rockstar. The notes came out like they were nothing, like I had been singing that song my entire life. I don’t really remember thinking about my choreography. It was as if something had taken my body over, and my mind was just along for the ride. I truly was someone else, with no trace of control. But I distinctly remember the first high note that I belted. I was planted center stage, with my back up girls doing something else behind me. It felt as though all of the work I had done over the years to get to that moment came out in a clear, high E. I even surprised myself, but I didn’t break character. The voice in the back of my head was completely shocked that I had made that sound, but the rest of me kept going through the song, following the music through to the end. As I hit my last pose on the button of the song, I wanted to melt. The last thing I remember onstage was the sound of massive cheering from the crowd that I couldn’t even see. I didn’t let myself break character until I was offstage, but as soon as I was, I slumped into a chair. I had finally done it. I had finally proved something to myself: that a culmination of years of hard work can pay off if you just believe in yourself.