Putting in the Work : Competition Winner Nichelle Lewis

This is part 2 of 6 as we highlight the First Place winners of each division from the 2020 CS MUSIC VOCAL COMPETITION.

CS Music: Tell us a little about yourself.

Nichelle Lewis: I am entering my senior year at Molloy College’s CAP21. I have been singing since the 5th grade when I joined my church’s junior choir.

CS: What is your dream role?

NL: My dream role is Nala in the Lion King.

CS: What advice would you give to future participants in the CS Music Competition?

NL: Sing, do you, and be you. Embrace who you are. Have fun doing the competition and do not worry about what anyone else might have to say about your audition and what you are doing. Lastly, have fun and remember that you are enough.

CS: How do you feel that singing, and music in general, can have an impact on the world?

NL: I think music is like poetry and when you share that with others it can heal, motivate, and inspire people to change the world.

CS: Name some of your favorite professional singers and why they are so impactful.

NL: I absolutely love Demi Lovato because she is not afraid to tell her truth through her music and share that with others. Her music helps people deal with life and also helps people realize that we all struggle and that we all face trials and tribulations.

I also love Audra McDonald because she speaks her truth through music and is not afraid to embrace herself. Being a person of color, I follow her career because she performs in all genres and is inspirational to me as another person of color trying to be successful in the entertainment industry.  

CS: What was your experience like participating in a virtual competition and convention vs. the traditional live setting?

NL: Although I have never actually been to the live version of this competition, I am pretty sure that you walk into a room and it is quiet while you sing before the judges. Competing in the virtual contest was wild. I am sure others can relate to this: imagine a five year old who does not know how to use her inside voice yet and is running around; another sibling, trying to be quiet, but not quite accomplishing it; and the entire family wanting things to be quiet because you have been singing and recording for hours trying to create something you are content with. On top of all of that, we know that technology is not always reliable. However, after everything was finished, everyone, including myself, laughed about the entire thing.  

CS: In terms of singing and performing, what has been your biggest struggle and how have you overcome it?

NL: Dyslexia. For me, learning music takes a lot of work; and I have to do probably twice the work that others do. Reading sheet music is extremely difficult for me. Sometimes I do not see the notes that I need to read. While other times, the notes switch up on me and I cannot tell what bar or line they are on. It takes me a really long time to learn all the notes and make sure they are correct. We all know that part of the performance process is making sure that you know your material well enough that you do not have to think about it while singing.

I have overcome this by learning a series of techniques to help me. I highlight each bar and draw a line from note to note so that I know when I need to go up or down. I also learned how to plunk the notes out on the piano so that I am not only using sight but also my ears. These are just a few of my methods. I have also found friends that have dyslexia and we help each other learn our materials and make sure that we know what we are doing. Additionally, I developed a really strong work ethic and constantly strive to have confidence in myself, trusting that I have put in the hard work to know the material.

Watch all of the winners of the 2020 CS Vocal Competition HERE.

CS Music Staff

CS Music is THE community for singers, teachers, and pianists. CS began in 1986 with the first issue of The New York Opera Newsletter and later to the award-winning magazine Classical Singer. Since 2003 CS has expanded to included articles, audition listings, and events for both classical and musical theatre singers worldwide! Free online articles and listings are available at www.csmusic.net.