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Watching musical movies, auditioning for choirs and joining local competitions was the beginning of these students’ singing journeys

Ralph Mallapre performing in front of a black piano and a navy blue curtain. He is wearing a white long-sleeve shirt, a light grey vest and dark grey pants.
Ralph Mallapre performing on the BYUH campus.

J.T. Stokes, a senior from Freehold, New Jersey, majoring in general music with an emphasis in vocal performance, gave advice to people who want to sing but are not confident enough. According to Stokes, it doesn’t matter if others think a person is a bad singer. He encouraged them to let go of their fears, even though doing so “is easier said than done.”

Stokes said he understands why people may be scared to sing because it can involve putting a vulnerable part of themselves out there. However, he said they should focus on doing what makes them happy. “Why be fearful about doing something that’ll make [them] happy?”

Student singers who are part of the BYU–Hawaii ohana advised aspiring to learn to play an instrument, to practice often and to sing loudly if that brings them joy.

Musical lover

Stokes said he has been singing since he was 6 or 7 years old. When he was very young, he said he loved Disney musical movies and other animated movies that include singing in them, such as “Mulan,” “Cinderella,” “Anastasia” and “Aladdin.

He said he would sing the soundtracks of those movies around the house.When he was 8 years old, Stokes said he began singing in a choir and started voice lessons when he was 14 years old.He explained singing is an outlet he uses to release his emotions, and he loves seeing the impact it has on the audience.

For example, when he played King Triton in a production of “The Little Mermaid,” he said, “There were a lot of kids watching. To see all the smiles on their faces [made it] so rewarding.”Stokes added music tells stories and allows people to “build beautiful relationships.” He explained, “Music brings so much joy to life, and a life without music is a sad life.”

Versatile performer

Ralph Mallapre, a senior from Cebu, Philippines, majoring in vocal performance, said when he was young, he disliked singing because he did not like the feeling of being nervous when facing many people. However, he added, he came from a musically oriented family in which all of his nine siblings sing.

He said he began singing when he was 5 years old only because his grandmother urged him to join local amateur competitions but decided to take singing seriously when he was 16 years old and he joined a well-known seven-day competition in his province called “Sinulog Idol.”

After winning second place, he said a lot of composers asked him to sing their original songs. After the competition, he said was inspired to learn more about singing and eventually become a professional singer.

He said his end goal is to be a versatile performer by knowing how to act, dance and sing. “Right now, I’m improving my singing skills. And after I graduate, I might join some theatre company or a company where they focus on ... singing or dancing.”

Finding a friend in music

Mitzi Lilian Yañez Lizama, a sophomore from Chile majoring in psychology, said she doesn’t recall at what age she started singing, but she said she has always loved it. When she was around 10 years old, she said she would always record herself singing, go to karaoke and sing covers.

She said back then, she idolized a Spanish rapper called Porta because of his song lyrics, which involve important and taboo topics such as eating disorders, abuse and loving oneself. When she joined her school choir at 14 years old, she said she started taking singing seriously. “That was a very important moment for me because I needed to do auditions, and I had never done that before.”

To cope with the new experience, she said she would tell herself, “Okay, I’m going to go out of my room, or my ‘cave,’ and show this talent to other people. ... I don’t know if this is going to be okay, but I’ll try.”

Yañez Lizama said being part of the choir turned out to be a good experience because the choir instructor was good at helping them individually. She said her choir instructor knew each member of the choir’s voices, weaknesses, and strengths because the choir was quite small. They were able to perform in different schools and joined a nationwide competition. The competition was a positive experience, she added, even though they made it to the last round and then ended up losing.

Yañez Lizama added she stayed in the school choir until she graduated high school. The choir, she said, sang both classical and Latin music. “Not Latin from Latino music, [but] Latin from Greek,” she explained. She added she sang the soprano 2 part.

Today, she said she is part of the University Chorale at BYUH. For her, music is a friend because she said it will be there for her whole life, giving her comfort through words.

Advice from experienced singers

Stokes said people have told him he was born with a good voice, but he said although he was gifted with a nice tone of voice, he practiced a lot to become a good singer. “Hard work pays off,” he explained.

Besides practicing singing every day, he said he is always by the piano. “I listened to my repertoire, at least for my voice lessons, constantly and practiced along with it,” he added.

Mallapre’s advice for people who want to sing is to be patient. “Being a good singer takes time. It requires a lot of practice.” He added if a person knows how to sing but doesn’t practice, they will not improve.

He said he practices almost every day for an hour and a half. Mallapre sings and hums all the time even if he is just walking or on his way to his room. “I really don’t care about what people might think when I sing out loud,” he stated.

Yañez Lizama’s tip for aspiring singers is to learn how to play an instrument in addition to singing. She said this will help them to “get familiar with the notes, and provide some necessary “ear training” or aural skills where singers and musicians learn to identify pitches, rhythms, chords, and other music theory concepts by ear.