By Peter LaBerge, Founder & Editor-in-Chief
Another month, another stunning emerging musician... this month, meet India Carney—though you may already know her from the brand new season of The Voice, where she managed to turn all four chairs & land on Team Christina. Stay tuned today and tomorrow at 8 pm EST to see India battle it out, and win our hearts all over again!
Peter LaBerge, Editor-in-Chief: First off: congratulations on getting a standing ovation from all four coaches in your Blind Audition—proud to say I’ve known about your talent since before The Voice! Let’s start off simple: How does it feel to be named a “favorite” for this season; has it sunk in yet?
India Carney, The Voice Contestant: Thank you so much! Honestly, I didn't realize I was a favorite this season, but I appreciate it! I suppose hearing that I'm being named a "favorite" hasn't sunken in yet. I'm just focusing on preparing for finals, getting my graduation requirements in order, and getting all my thank yous out on Twitter and Facebook!
Tell our readers your story. (We really want to hear it.)
I grew up in Brooklyn, NY. When I was younger, I would tinker on the keys of our piano, and my parents saw that as a sign that I might be interested in music. So, my mother took me to weekly Mommy & Me music classes starting at 6 months old, and I was studying at the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music by the time I was 2. I had the experience of using different instruments and understanding rhythm. I not only learned about music, but I also was able to create music. Soon after, I began taking classical piano and flute lessons and joined a community choir. During my early education, my parents taught me at home. Homeschooling allowed me the flexibility to explore a variety of interests, including tennis, golf, music, theater, and lots of field trips! Brooklyn was my classroom, and that early education gave me my foundation. When I was enrolled in elementary school a few years later, I joined the choir, drama club and the school band (playing flute). I performed in community theaters and also sang at my church. When I was 9 years old, I was cast as "Annie" in Annie Jr., a community theater production directed and founded by Tony Award winner Ben Harney. Through that experience, I discovered my voice and realized my passion for this art. In middle school, I began studying voice as a Voice Major (or, "Vocal Talent", as we used to call it). I then graduated and studied at LaGuardia Arts High School where I was enrolled as a Vocal Major. I participated in the school musicals, talent shows, and a few other events. My first musical there was A Chorus Line playing the role of "Diana Morales" and then Hairspray as a “Dynamite”. As a high school student, I also attended Saturday school for four years at the Manhattan School of Music Pre-College in Voice and for my final senior production I starred as “Aida” in the junior version of the musical, AIDA. At LaGuardia, I also got my start with songwriting. I took a composition class and started to develop that skill as best I could. During summer breaks, I went to summer programs, one of which included the National High School Summer Institute (NHSI) @ Northwestern University where I studied Theater and Musical Theatre. During my senior year of high school, I was also a National Foundation YoungArts Silver Winner in Pop Voice and won other Voice and Theatre awards through YoungArts. I was selected to be one of 20 U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts, the highest scholastic achievement for a graduating high school senior! The Scholars and I were flown out to Washington, D.C. to be honored by the White House and White House Commission on Presidential Scholars, and give a performance at the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts. I was completely humbled by that experience and opportunity. After I graduated from LaGuardia, I immediately went on to study Music at UCLA, where I am finishing up my senior year.
Music has been my life. Sometimes, I look at it as a spiritual thing, to be honest. It wakes me up in the morning, walks with me during the day and tucks me in to bed at night. It's the one thing that I've always understood, and one part of my life that I am especially passionate about.
What made you decide this season of The Voice was for you?
I think the timing was just right this season. I am about to graduate from college, and I figured it would be neat if I were lucky enough to have this opportunity, something that could potentially set up my future and my life post-graduation. The Voice is an incredible show. I even auditioned a few times before finally getting a "Yes" for this season. I just knew it was worth it to keep auditioning, so I did. I was encouraged by all of my professors to pursue it. Thankfully, I was selected for this season and I couldn't be happier! #TeamChristina!
If you weren’t a singer, what type of artist would you most want to be? Why?
If I weren't a singer.. wow. It would very hard for me to think of not being a singer. I’ve been preparing as a singer my whole life and I love performing! I guess I'd like to be a director, whether it be directing plays or directing a choir. The feeling of being able to develop and nurture something, and be somewhat in charge of that journey seems to be awesome and super gratifying. I currently direct an a cappella group at UCLA (ScatterTones), and vocal direct a student-run theater company called Act III Theater Ensemble at UCLA. I feel that sentiment all the time.
How have your educational experiences changed the person and singer that you’ve become? Any specific mentors? Which opportunities would you most highly suggest for teenagers or young adults that hope to be where you are now in a couple of years?
My educational experiences have greatly shaped the artist that I am today. Through music education, I've developed such a deep love and respect for music, and for the art of teaching and learning, whether it be in a classroom setting or a real life performing experience. For people who have been products of a musical education, it's always about the teacher's impact. That's why we have a Grammy award for the Best Teacher in the nation. Teachers have, and always will be very valuable to an artist's success, and I can say that I've been blessed with supportive teachers all throughout my journey. My parents were my first influential teachers, since I was home-schooled for a while. I went on to learn from and be encouraged by my teachers during private lessons, elementary school and middle school, but I think I met my most influential teachers in high school, which is where my passion in music really began to grow. All of my teachers were incredibly supportive and even tried to help me network and advance to the next step. My current teachers at UCLA are so generous, so giving, and so supportive of my endeavors. I admire them and couldn't be more grateful to have them in my life.
My suggestion to those looking to start your career in the performing arts would be to network. Oh my gosh, it's the one thing that is incredibly difficult for me, but it’s the only way that you'll get to where you'll eventually want to be. Not to mention, you meet new people and establish new, positive relationships. Networking is key. Auditioning and never giving up are also key. Success doesn't come on the first try. I've heard "No" several times, and in fact, I auditioned for The Voice a few times before getting selected for the Blind Auditions. Now, I'm part of an incredible process that has put me in a position I couldn't ever have dreamt of. If you're looking to be part of a competition like The Voice, I'd suggest you do some competitions in preparation for the experience. The other advantage of participating in competitions is that your talent can be recognized by industry professionals.
This next question is quite a conceptual one. Where does the art of voice lie for you? Is it collaborative, or is it between you and the song? How does this philosophy affect your methodology and style?
Ooh, this is a great question. I could write an essay on this, but I promise I won't. Last year, after my Junior Recital, my friend came up to me and said, "India, you know how to use your instrument so well." That was actually the first time I looked at the voice as an instrument. Of course, we're all used to people differentiating musicians form singers, when in reality, we're all musicians. The voice is an instrument, and it's a vehicle for emotion. Thinking of the voice as an instrument causes you to take a different perspective on how to treat it. Many times, singing is the only way I can truly emote something and my the message across to an audience. It has reassured me during tough times and the sound of someone's voice really has the power to speak to people, and emotionally touch someone's heart. Studying opera has taught me a lot respecting the voice, and looking at it as something that needs to be taken care of and cherished. So many people take singing, and singers for granted, but the voice has the power to change lives and send messages. I just find singing to be such a beautiful thing.
To answer the second part of your question, I think that singing calls for an active combination of your personal connection with the song, and a collaborative element. Being part of YoungArts taught me that music, especially singing, is a collaborative experience, and that mentality has helped me a lot in the group singing and other collaborative activities that I'm a part of. The Battle Rounds of The Voice are all about collaboration, believe it or not. Some people may have the idea that Battles are about showing off and finding a winner, but it's really about creating a performance on the stage, where you get to work off of your partner, and make both of you shine, so that you both can come out winners. I'm always excited to work with new people, because it's a new learning experience for you. The only way to move forward is by working together, and I wholeheartedly believe that.
And finally, you mentioned during your blind audition that you chose “someone who was a big part of my childhood” as a coach—Christina Aguilera. What was it about Christina that had a particular influence on you? Any other artists that have had a similar influence?
Oh yes. Christina Aguilera was my iPod. I would travel with her songs wherever I went. I still belt out "I Turn To You", "Fighter", and I was just listening to "Reflections" while watching Milan (basically my favorite Disney movie besides Lion King) the other day. She has been an inspiration to so many singers, myself included. Her voice is so iconic and her career is so influential. Not to mention, she's an incredible person. I grew up listening to all sorts of music, and my iPod still consists of many different artists. I'd say some more musical inspirations include Michael Jackson, Jasmine Sullivan, Adele, Coldplay, John Mayer, Jessie J, and of course, Whitney Houston!
Peter LaBerge is the author of the forthcoming chapbook Hook (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2015). His recent work is featured or forthcoming in Beloit Poetry Journal, Redivider, Copper Nickel, Best New Poets 2014, DIAGRAM, and Indiana Review, among others. He grew up in southwestern Connecticut, and now lives in Philadelphia, where he is a sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania and the Founder & Editor-in-Chief of The Adroit Journal. Learn more at www.peterlaberge.com.