Dana Hernandez, 11

Singer on the rise

PHOTO COURTESY OF DANA HERNANDEZ

For junior Dana Hernandez, singing in the spotlight isn’t a fear – it’s a lifestyle. Her vocal strength and confidence derive from the frequent competitions and performances that mark her calendar. Brought up in a family with strong musical influences, Hernandez began to nurture her talent at a young age through the support of family and friends.

“As I was growing up, I was surrounded by people who loved to sing, one them being my dad. When we would go to parties, we had this karaoke machine that people would take turns singing in and it seemed like a lot of fun. Then one day I decided to try it and many people from the party encouraged me to sing more. Since they were people who were close to me, I could tell that they genuinely enjoyed how I sang. Singing for them inspired me to do better and they are my motivation — they still are up to this day,” Hernandez said.

In seventh grade, after a competition in which she placed third, her current teacher Janice Veigh, a senior lecturer at University of Southern California, offered to be her mentor.

“When [Veigh] approached me it took me by surprise. At that moment so many questions were going through my head like ‘Why didn’t she ask the first place winner? She’s obviously better than me.’ But then when she said I had the potential I felt as though I was capable of anything. Her request to teach me really brought my hopes up because it made me feel like I had a special talent that was just waiting inside.” Hernandez said.

In her everyday practice routine, Hernandez first warms up, perfects the expressions, pronunciations and notes in her songs and goes back to review each measure. Hernandez spends time perfecting her facial expressions and the emotions she expresses to the audience since the presentation also plays an important role in the performance and overall reception of a song.

“I felt like my practices were great, always hitting every single note correctly, and making sure that everything was 100% and perfect. So I believe I really worked hard and put in all my efforts,” Hernandez said.

“[During performances] I feel like I’m an entirely different person. It really depends on your song. For example, for a sad song, [you have to] be the sad lonely person they are and be an entirely different character. You’re actually doing a lot when it comes to singing. You also add more emotion to your performance, giving a deeper connection to your audience. You’re actually doing a lot when it comes to singing,” Hernandez said.

Hernandez was recently awarded second place for her classical division performance in the National Association Teachers of Singing (NATS) 2014 Student Evaluation for the Los Angeles chapter, on Saturday, Nov. 15. In the two divisions she entered, Hernandez sang “Come Ready and See Me” and “O Mio Babbino Caro” for the classical division and “Art is Calling for Me” and “Till There Was You” for her musical theatre entry.

“To be honest, second place was a bit of a downer for me because I had put a lot of effort in practicing for this. [However], when I heard the first place winner in the awards ceremony I could tell she also put in a lot of work too. I have to admit she gave a flawless performance, so I think I was sort of glad I got to place right next to someone as good as her,” Hernandez said.

Both performances were solos, which distinguishes this competition from her regular school choir performances.

“It’s different because I sing alone, not with my friends. You’re just by yourself. It’s like everything is focused and centered on you and you have to be extra careful with everything,” Hernandez said. “For me, when I’m performing, if I were to try to think too critically about all the notes I’m singing, the pronunciations and the expression all at the same time, everything would sound strained. I believe when one is performing, it’s not good to think too much about being careful.”

This year, the competition seemed better to Hernandez despite its results being lower than previous experiences.

“Compared to past competitions, I believe I’m a lot better now even though my past results were better than recent competitions. Winning second place was special in a way that it left me with a feeling that ‘you were good but not the best.’ So it’s special to me because it provides incentive to work harder and it fuels my passion to sing,” Hernandez said.

Although she wasn’t first, Hernandez’s work and practice ultimately paid off.

“I thought I did my best that day and I was at my highest peak. I felt really good,” Hernandez said. “The practice helped me tremendously, that I was able to perform without any worries, and [I know that] I did my best.”

Now, Hernandez plans to somehow incorporate singing in the career she will choose to go into.

“Singing is what makes me happy and it defines me for who I am so if I have the opportunity to continue singing while pursuing my chosen career in the future, then I will,” Hernandez said.

By Vivian Lee, Staff writer



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