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Something to Sing About

She has a world of opportunity in front of her and incredibly supportive family and friends around her. 19-year-old, Kirkwood resident, Joanna Serenko, talks about life before, during, and after "The Voice."   

Musical Influences 
My mom introduced me to music. By six, I was taking piano and voice lessons. I discovered my love for performing through recitals and musicals. During my sophomore year of high school, I began writing and playing original music. I found my style through the influences of many different genres and people. Today, my music taste is eclectic and random. I love to experience new music in a way so that it becomes a part of me.  

Plan B 
I was planning to attend Maryville University last August. Like many first-year college students, I didn't know exactly what I was going to study. I was leaning toward health sciences because my mom is a nurse, and I care about people's well-being. I planned to study health science while working on finding new opportunities in music. Then, producers of "The Voice" contacted me.  

Opportunity Calls 
I received an email from producers of "The Voice" inviting me to a private audition for the upcoming Season 18. I had tried out for "The Voice" previously but did not advance past the second audition. This time, producers of the show reached out to me, so it seemed promising. My boyfriend, Tyler Dale, a musician in St. Louis and I drove to Louisville for the audition last June.  

And So, It Begins 
I was having a great time in Los Angeles with the other singers preparing for Season 18. Before I knew it, the Blind Audition rolled around. I was nervous. But looking back on it, the Blind Audition was probably the easiest of the rounds. All I had to do was go on stage and show what I could do. If I could turn one chair, I would move on. I didn't have to worry about competing against anybody or preparing a song that I didn't know.  

The Coaches 
Nick: I didn't expect Nick to be as musical as he is because I had always imagined him as the boy I saw in concert when I was eight years old. Nick is super talented and knows how to make the best performance physically and emotionally.  

John: We had only had about 30 minutes to work together. John was very helpful in articulating what he wanted to hear vocally. He taught me how to manifest that and how to improve on that aspect.  

Blake: I've only worked with Blake remotely. He's a very down to earth person. He was great about saying, "Have confidence. Trust yourself and your abilities."  

Live. From Home
In some ways, filming the live show from home was a blessing because there was no pressure to sing in front of a live audience, and I was with family and friends. On the other hand, it was difficult because I was missing the energy of a live audience. I had to create and harness that energy to give the best performance.  

You Want This Where? 
Annie Serenko (Joanna's Mom) On Saturday, before the Live from Home round, I went for an afternoon jog but could not get past the boxes unloaded onto our front porch. There were carpets, pillows, candles, plants, lights, and tables to set up for her upcoming performance of her dedication song "Lean On Me." Joanna and I eagerly set up the home decor in the basement for an impressive set only to find out the producers wanted Joanna to sing outside on the upstairs deck. Following their instructions, Joanna and I rolled up the carpet and hauled it, along with the other home decor, onto the upstairs deck. Set up was a major task, but producers talked us through exactly what they wanted. Pillows, tables, and plants were set according to their specifications. Once the set was approved, we were instructed where to place the cameras based on the preferred angle and the sun's expected position during the recording of her live performance. 

Not Nervous Now 
Annie Serenko (Joanna's Mom) I am not nervous when Joanna performs because she typically has things under control. When she was younger, I would worry that she would lack the confidence on stage to deal with the unexpected. Now she has stage presence, confidence, and the personality to just "go with the flow." It was actually fun to watch her think on her feet when the coaches would try to "steal" her. I admire her witty responses to the coach's comments. It made the show interesting and fun to watch. 

The Competition  
It was challenging to think of this as a competition. I've become super close to everyone throughout the past couple of months. I competed against one of my best friends, Mandi Castillo. I know it's a competition, but at the same time, these are my friends, and I feel bad because one of us had to be chosen over the other. 

The Pressure 
Sometimes, the pressure was good, and sometimes the pressure was not good. It was a challenge. I've learned so much about myself mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. There were times when my nerves would overpower me and hinder my performance in a way that I didn't want. But I learned from it. I was able to take that and move on. I'm still working on control, how to navigate working under pressure, how to learn songs and perform them, and how to take criticism. Singing is a psychological game. If you doubt yourself, then it comes out in your music.  

What's Next? 
This show has given me a whole new confidence. It's taught me that I could make it in the music industry. I would love to get a scholarship to study music. My opportunities for education are still something I'm working through. Everyone's path is different, but no matter where I end up, I'm always going to be in music.  

Dream Career 
I would love to go to Nashville to be a fulltime singer, songwriter, and musician. I have one original song on Spotify and iTunes called "Best of Me." It's a song about questioning why I was holding on to something (someone) that is not good for me. I wrote it and recorded it last summer in New York with my cousin, Jake Goldbas, who is a drummer. I have a whole album of new music I'm excited to release.  

Favorite Place to Perform Around Town
 I have a residency at Montrey's Cigar Lounge in Ferguson. I sing and play there with my friend, Pete Lombardo, a local St. Louis guitarist. The crowd loves good music, and I get to sing my favorite covers. I've done gigs at Blueberry Hill, Schlaflys, Petrichor Brewing, KDHX, and various locations for Sofar Sounds. Now, I'm ready to expand my venues.  

Thank You, St. Louis 
The amount of support from St. Louis has been incredible. My family, friends, and music community have been amazing. I was so lucky to have a great community cheering me on. I believe that James Taylor was right when he said, "St Louis is a great music town."