Cristiano Humberto Israel Pereira, Jr. returned to the University of Miami in January ready for his final college semester. Graduation loomed in five months, and he was uncertain what came next. He would prefer a return to his native New York City but would do whatever it took to break into the music business.
The e-mail from Dr. Pierce—one of his instructors at the Frost School of Music—presented a possibility he had not considered. It might mean relocating to Los Angeles instead of Manhattan but so what.
The professor glanced at Chipper when the student knocked on the open door. “Ah, Mr. Pereira, welcome back. I trust you enjoyed your vacation?”
“Happy New Year, Dr. Pierce. When are you going to call me Chipper?” Dr. Pierce was known for addressing everyone by their last name. Chipper did not expect a change any time soon. “Christmas break was nice. Now I’m ready to finish the semester. I’m looking forward to graduation.”
“Good, good, take a seat. What did you think of what I mentioned in my message?”
“I’m interested. I never considered entering a music competition. But if it helps me break into the business, I’m all for it.”
A few days later, Chipper received an e-mail from a producer at The Voice. The NBC reality showwas one of the network’s most popular offerings. She invited Chipper to try out in person during auditions in Tampa the following month.
He was unsure why he wanted to keep it a secret from friends and family, but decided to confide only in his schoolmates Michael and Blaine. “So, that’s what’s going on. I was wondering if you guys wanted to drive home for a long weekend and if your dads would let me crash at your place.”
Michael was from the Tampa Bay area, gay, and had two fathers. The similarities between his Cuban-American classmate and Chipper’s best friend in Washington created a quick bond soon after they met. “For sure. My dads will be happy to see me and give you a place to sleep. I’m curious, how come you’re not staying with your father?”
“I’m… I don’t want to tell anyone yet. In case I don’t make it.” Chipper’s parents divorced when he was a kid. His mother eventually returned to her native Buenos Aires, and his father settled in Tampa following a stint in Washington.
“Of course you’ll make it.” Blaine was emphatic. “We’ve heard you sing. You’re a beast! You’ll crush it.”
Buoyed by his friends’ belief in him, Chipper felt confident walking into the audition. He had been asked to prepare three songs. Required to perform one a Capella, the second one he could accompany himself or sing to a pre-recorded track. The third one was to be held in reserve.
Nerves made him screw up a couple of early notes, but he recovered and nailed the remainder. He felt the stripped down version of “Welcome to My World” showcased his voice well. His performance owed a lot to Raul Malo’s version, having watched the YouTube video countless times.
Chipper turned and sipped from the water bottle on the stool behind him. While the show’s staff whispered, he picked up his guitar, and pulled the stool closer to the microphone. “I have pre-recorded music for this one but if it’s acceptable, I’d like to do an acoustic version instead.”
Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You” allowed Chipper to display his voice in a different way. A more modern sound showed he was not limited, and the faster beat made it a crowd pleaser. It also allowed him to hit notes the first song did not. In his opinion, it worked well with just his guitar; the half-smiles on the panel encouraged him.
“That was good, Chipper.” The spokeswoman did not sound enthusiastic. “Would you mind stepping outside for a few minutes? One of us will come talk to you.”
Insecurities clawed through his contentment. He thought he had done well, but maybe they were looking for something else. He felt like a fool for allowing himself to think he was a shoo-in. Rejection had not visited often during his incipient musical career, but he was certain the time had come to return home empty handed. He knew no matter how good an artist was, it took more than talent to succeed. If this was not his break, so be it. He resigned himself to return to school and finish the semester.
“Mr. Pereira? Would you mind stepping back inside? We’d like a word with you.”
Warned few artists were asked to perform more than two numbers, Chipper was surprised when one of the panel members inquired about a third one. “I brought music for a song in Spanish. I’m bilingual, and I thought it would showcase my versatility.” Hope rose again; he prayed the gamble would pay off.
“Perfect! We’d love to hear it. Whenever you’re ready.”
Written for and recorded by Julio Iglesias, “Soy un Truhan, Soy un Señor” spoke of a rogue who could also be a gentleman. Chipper did not have the years or life experience the famous Spaniard did, but he nonetheless identified with the lyrics. Singing about life and love felt right.
The tune had a catchy refrain; it also allowed Chipper to sing notes different from the other two. He closed his eyes and allowed the melody to course through him. That feeling was why he was a musician. When he opened them, the panel was smiling. Their whispered deliberation was inaudible.
Michael and Blaine had accompanied him. When he was called, they waited for his return in the lobby. Chipper’s wide grin said it all. His friends shouted and hugged him while those still waiting stared. Chipper saw hope and fear in their eyes.
“I’m in! Next stop, Los Angeles and the Blind Auditions!”
Michael Quintana and Blaine Emerson are the intellectual property of Parker Owens. They’re used with permission of the author.
Welcome to the discussion thread for CJ’s series.
All things CJ are fair game, I simply ask you be respectful of others.
I will actively participate in the discussion. Ask questions, speculate about what’s coming, or bitch about what happened.
We’re now open for business!