Teens to head from local stage to the European stageThey stood on the stage, instruments at the ready. At stake was the title of “Roberts Idol” – a local take on the popular TV show “American Idol.”
By: Tom Lindfors, New Richmond News
They stood on the stage, instruments at the ready. At stake was the title of “Roberts Idol” – a local take on the popular TV show “American Idol.”
On cue, they began to perform: one on the piano, the other on guitar. Their voices rose together to sing an original composition before the crowd.
By the end of Saturday night, Gina Hanzlik, 18, and Jessie Lammers, 17, were crowned the “Roberts Idols.”
The song they performed was entitled “What If?” they had written only a week ago.
“We had never done that for anyone before,” Hanzlik said of the song. “It’s based on a piece of music that I had written when I was 11 years old.”
In case you missed it, the song will be on the girls’ upcoming CD. They are collaborating with The Dweebs, a local band, to produce the CD as a fundraiser for their Sound of America tour of Europe this summer.
The Sound of America Honor Band and Chorus is a non-profit organization that selects its 150 participants based on rigid character and musical evaluations from all over the United States. Hanzlik and Lammers are the only two vocalists selected from the Midwest.
“We both were in the all-state choir, so we went to Madison to do a big concert,” Hanzlik said. “Then we got a letter inviting us to audition for the Sound of America tour. We were able to waive the musical requirement so we didn’t have to send in audition tapes, but we did have to get letters of recommendation.”
The tour will begin July 3 when all the participants gather at Elizabethtown College in Elizabethtown, Pa. After four days of intensive rehearsal and orientation, they will leave for Frankfurt, Germany. There they will begin a 24-day concert tour at concert halls and major cathedrals in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, France and Luxembourg.
Lammers, an aspiring opera singer, said she is really looking forward to visiting Italy for the first time.
“Italy is the capital of opera,” Lammers exclaimed. “Just seeing that and being there – we’ll get to play some awesome venues.”
Hanzlik, a senior at Somerset High School, has been preparing for a career in musical theater her whole life.
“Never thought of doing anything else, even when I was little,” she said.
She credits her older brother, Matt, with giving her the theater bug. He was involved in the Stage Door Players (now Old Gem Theater in New Richmond) and she would tag along. Since then, she has participated in the Stage Door Players, The Phipps Center for the Arts and St. Croix Valley Summer Theater.
“I got my first guitar when I was 8 years old, that’s when I started writing,” Hanzlik said.
She said her dad and brother did community theater for fun, but she is the only one in the family that is serious about it. She has been studying voice with The McPhail School of Music in Minneapolis since her sophomore year. She has also participated in the Wisconsin State Honors Choir, District Honors Choir, and WSMA Solo Ensemble and earned high honors.
“I’m the only singer (in my family),” Hanzlik said. “I like to be in front of people and get my energy out.”
Lammers, a junior at Somerset High School, said she got her start singing Whitney Houston songs when she was little.
“I’d hear ‘I’ll Will Always Love You’ on the radio and I’d sing along,” Lammers admitted. “I was too young to know the words, so I made my own up.”
She started playing the piano because the house her family had moved into had a huge piano. Rather than try to remove it, she began to play.
“My mom used to sing and play the violin and my dad plays the guitar and sings, so we’d have music fiestas in our house all the time.”
Up until middle school, she had her sights set on a career as a concert pianist. That was until she discovered another talent: singing. She began studying with a private voice teacher and is currently studying at The Minnesota Opera as a member of the Giovanni Choir. She has also participated in the Wisconsin State Honors Choir, District Honors Choir, WSMA Solo Ensemble and WMTA for many years in both voice and piano.
Lammers said she didn’t start writing music until this year, when she began her collaboration with Hanzlik. The girls admit although they knew of each other for several years, they didn’t become friends until last year.
“We first met when we were both auditioning for Honors Choir – I was 11 years old at the time,” Lammers began. “She thought I was crazy because I was so hyper.”
“I did not,” Hanzlik said with a smile. “I’ve always been more mature, more of an older figure to my friends, and Jess was this bouncy 11-year-old .”
However, being in their school choir and performing in last year’s musical “Once Upon A Mattress” prompted them to start a friendship.
“Our district is pretty small, so it’s nice to find someone who wants to pursue music on a serious note,” Hanzlik said. “Also, it’s nice to talk to someone other than your parents who knows about auditions.”
Hanzlik certainly understands the audition process. In the past two weeks, she has auditioned for four different colleges; four times for music and four times for acting. She is hoping to study Vocal Performance with a minor in marketing.
“If you are in theater or music, until you have an agent, you have to market yourself,” Hanzlik explained. “A marketing degree would help me with that.”
Hanzlik said her dream role would be to play Clara in the “Light in the Piazza.”
“When I first auditioned at McPhail, they said my voice would fit that part well,” Hanzlik said. “So I got that CD and that part just stuck out.”
Lammers said she doesn’t have a set college in mind, although she does want to study Vocal Performance in Opera.
“Most operatic voices don’t mature until they are 30 years old,” Lammers said. “I don’t know any opera singers hired in their 20s.”
As for her dream role, Lammers said she has always been drawn to characters full of passion.
“In ‘The Ballad of Baby Doe’ opera, there is a character called Miss Taylor,” Lammers explained. “Her husband has fallen in love with another, and she refuses to believe it. When her friends ask her what she’ll do, she is so angry, she says she’ll make him wish he had never been born.”
The girls are planning on releasing their CD in late March. They are also scheduled to open for the headlining band at Roberts Good Neighbor Days in late May, and possibly at Country Splash this summer.
In order to raise the $7,000/participant needed to attend the concert tour, Lammers is working at Dairy Queen and Hanzlik is working at Herberger’s. They have a CD release party/spaghetti dinner scheduled for March 27 at the American Legion.
“We’re trying to get business sponsors to help with the CD, since we have to duplicate it, package it and distribute it,” Hanzlik said. “We’d be willing to put a sponsor’s logo on it and be happy to perform too.”
For more information on how to help sponsor the girls, call 651-492-6313 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. The girls also have a Facebook Web site under “Gina and Jessie.”