Vocalosity a cappella concert takes cast, audience on a journey back, and a journey forward
TAMMY NASH | Managing Editor
Even the longest journey starts with a single step. But perhaps, in this case, it’s more appropriate to say, with a single note.
Nicole Weiss and her fellow performers in Vocalosity spent some eight hours on a bus last Wednesday, headed to Greenville, N.C. It was just the latest leg in their journey, which launched in January and will wind up, some two months later, in Galveston, Texas in the first week in March — including a March 2 stop in Dallas for a concert at McFarlin Auditorium on the SMU campus.
“Luckily, we don’t have to perform tonight,” Weiss said in a phone interview from the bus. “Tonight, we get to just go to the hotel and relax.”
Vocalosity is the brainchild of Deke Sharon, vocal producer of the movie Pitch Perfect and musical director of the TV show The Sing-Off. The idea of the all-a cappella show is to put together 12 “all-star singers” into a group with would “go into people’s home towns, to sing and connect with people, to feel that joy of music and to inspire them to bring music back into their own lives.”
It was a concept that resonated deeply with Weiss.
Weiss is one of several — how to put it? — non-straight performers in the Vocalosity cast. She describes herself as “queer, bisexual, pansexual — any of the above,” and says that coming to terms with her identity has played a big role in her own journey.
Weiss says that when she first heard about Vocalosity and heard the names of Sharon and others who were involved in its creation, she knew right away she wanted to be a part of it. “I personally went to the open call in New York Center. I was the first person in line at the open call at 7 a.m., and I made it. That’s pretty rare, as far as my experience goes,” she notes.
The concert covers a “wide range of genres of music,” Weiss says. “But the journey of the show, the music, is so deliberate. Deke’s vision, his life’s work, he would say, is to get people to sing, whether they are singers are not. The point is not just for us to get to sing songs pretty, but to get the average person — someone who might have been told they can’t sing — to sing because they want to.
“There’s so much joy — in singing, in being part of a community that way,” she continues. “And we sing in the show, of course, but there’s also a section of the show where we tell her stories about how music has changed our lives, and made us who we are. We get such incredible feedback from the audience about how inspired they are by our stories.”
Weiss is one of four Vocalosity cast members who tell their stories during the show. Her story, she says, begins when she was born.
“I exited the womb singing, really,” she laughs. “I was always really confident about it. I sang all the time.”
And then came that one vocal teacher who “was not the kind of supportive person I needed, and I kind of shut down. Because of that, I started having a lot of insecurities around singing. And that bled into the rest of my life,” Weiss says. “I was afraid to be who I was. I so desperately wanted to fit in.”
And then came high school, and a show choir director who “was so kind to me, and who took me under his wing. He told me to sing like me, to be myself and to celebrate who I am.”
That choir director, she said, had her sing “Bridge Over Troubled Water” in a competition, and now, she gets to sing that same song at the end of her monologue in each performance of Vocalosity. And she gets to her from audience members who connect with her story and are empowered by it.
“When I was a teenager, I was bullied. I was made to feel I wasn’t enough,” she says. “So when I hear people who are like me, who went through those same things, telling me that hearing me tell my story inspires them to be themselves and live their lives — I can’t describe the feeling that gives me.”
While Weiss’s monologue in the show doesn’t reference her sexual orientation — another cast member does talk about being a gay man — that is a big part of her personal journey as well, she says.
“It’s just been in the past few years that I’ve really been able to own it,” she says of her sexual orientation and her identity as bi/pansexual. “I am really passionate now about having those conversations with people. There’s really a lot of bi-phobia out there. You’d think someone who is gay themselves would automatically understand. But it’s not that simple.”
Weiss says her personal journey helped her land her role in the musical journey that is Vocalosity. “I am who I am, and I am proud of that,” she declares. “There has definitely been a shift in the last few years in my confidence and I think that came through in my audition. I went into it with the mindset that I was going to be 100 percent myself, and if that was what they wanted then good. And if it wasn’t, I was going to be ok with that, too.”
“As it turned out, that’s what they wanted. They wanted people who were 100 percent themselves, people who would be that, own it.”
Weiss says that she hopes the Vocalosity concert — and the journey it represents — helps those who come to see it take the next steps in their own journeys, too. “I hope people leave wanting to go sing, feeling like they can go sing and do whatever else they want to do. I hope they leave knowing that they can go be themselves and that being themselves will make them the most successful person they can be.”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 26, 2016.