The 16-year-old Dalton High junior took part in the V.O.I.C.Experience program at Disney World during the first week of August.
To get into the program, Phinney had to send in a video that showcased her singing ability.
“I sent in lots of videos from chorus shows and the one-act (play),” Phinney said.
After applying in January, she didn’t hear the news until March that she had been selected to make the trip to Orlando.
Thirty-five people took part in the program—15 of whom were in Phinney’s age group (16-20) and the rest were from the older age bracket of 21-40.
“There was me and two 17-year-olds. We were the babies,” said Phinney, who was the youngest one who made the cut. “Our group was called Generation-X.”
On the first day of the program, Phinney and the others were automatically put on the spot—they each had to stand in front of everyone and show their talents.
“I have confidence,” said Phinney of her ability, “but everyone was doing these grand classical pieces, and I’m used to musical theater.”
The judges/instructors sat in the back and decided which performers would go where. Phinney got a place in the American Showcase.
Each day prepared the performers to get ready for the showcase that would take place on the last day of the program. In the morning, each performer was given a copy of his or her schedule for the day. They also went to classes and meetings that taught them different things such as colleges with good music programs and how the music business and relations work. People from the industry would come speak to the group during lunch, and rehearsal for the showcase was at night.
The final showcase was held on the last day of the program at Waterside Stage in downtown Disney. Phinney also took part in the Italian showcase (individual showcases were separated by the languages in which they were sung), but her big performance, which came in the American showcase, was in the last piece of the day— she sang the song “Astonishing” from the musical Little Women.
“It was very cool to sing at Disney,” Phinney said. “You could hear us in the park.”
Waterside Stage is an open theater, so there was no charge for the performance, and patrons could come and go as they pleased or stay as long as they wished.
Phinney said the best thing the experience taught her was how to be professional 24/7.
“It’s challenging for someone in high school to be professional all the time,” she said. “You always have the high school drama, and you might have a chemistry paper due Monday. There’s always school. But there you had to come in and be a grown up even if you were 16. We all had the same standard.”
Even though she had a great experience with the program, Phinney said she’d like to try something built more for her passion—musical theater.
“It was just focused on voice,” Phinney said of the Voice Experience. “With musical theater you need to dance and sing and act.”
To get that tailored experience, Phinney is looking at many colleges to help her talent live on—the University of Michigan and Webster University are two of the primary programs she’s looking at, but then there’s always the big ambitious dream …
“Carnegie Mellon,” Phinney said. “That would be my dream.”
By Lindsey Derrick, Dalton Public Schools Contributor