Musical "Trump card"
At 20, JMU music major Jaimie Standish has turned heads in the professional music industry and made a name for herself as a polished performer who can jump from classical music to pop without skipping a beat. In February, she broke into professional classical music circles by being the youngest performer to compete in the district competition of the Metropolitan Opera National Council's annual auditions a first in the history of JMU's music program.
That prestigious competition came on the heels of another but far different musical achievement. Over Christmas break, Standish was the vocalist for the opening act for Brenda Lee and Tony Orlando at Donald Trump's New Year's Eve bash at the Taj Mahal in Atlantic City.
Both experiences have open-ed doors to potential performing and recording opportunities as well as valuable contacts in the professional music industry. And both have left Standish pondering her future and her voice professor, In Dal Choi, giddy with an almost paternal pride. "This is the first time a JMU student has been so successful in both classical and popular music," says Choi.
February's Metropolitan Opera competition confirmed what Choi and the entire School of Music have long been thinking: Standish has not only the talent, but the technique, personality and work ethic to make it professionally. "I've never had a student like this before," beams Choi. "She sings like a 35-year-old and has the ability to quickly learn voice technique and then adapt it to a variety of styles, from classical to show tunes," says Choi.
Mellasenah Morris, director of JMU's School of Music, describes Standish as a "natural born performer" who has the personality and voice to immediately connect with her audiences. "It's very special for someone of her age to have this mature a voice and interpretative style."
As the "baby of the group" at the Met's district competition, Standish found herself competing with professionals years older, far more experienced, and whose voices have matured and stabilized. "I was so impressed with how big their voices were. I was not expecting to beat these people."
And while she didn't, Standish did prove that she's far from your typical 20-year- old performer. "They couldn't believe it," Choi says of people's reaction to Standish's performance. "That girl is really great," they whispered.
While Standish's competition in the Metropolitan Opera auditions was a calculated move by Choi to give her both the experience and contacts to build a future in classical music, her New Year's Eve performance was "so random" that it leaves her shaking her head over chance and circumstance.
Closer to home, this year Standish sang the lead role of Laetitia in JMU's fall production of Menotti's The Old Maid and the Thief.
So what's ahead? Summer likely will find Standish performing at Atlantic City, and there's talk of recording a compact disc of original music. In the more distant future? Maybe Broadway and her first love, music theater. But then there's always popular music and the world of opera. "I'm just taking whatever comes to me," Standish says. "Taking it as it comes."
But not before school. With a nearly perfect grade point average, Standish refuses to let this heady year of success cloud her focus on education. "There's a lot of starving artists out there," she laughs. With her education, talent, contacts and seemingly endless energy, she plans on not being one of them.
by Margie Shetterly