Student to perform alongside Bestor

By By Carlos Mayorga

By Carlos Mayorga

On a mid-November night last month, Erica Richardson was in a bind, again.

Richardson left her class at the U at 5 p.m. and had only about an hour to audition at a major statewide singing competition at the Gateway and then make it to the Hale Centre Theatre in West Valley City where she was supposed to perform.

The junior theater major said she is constantly juggling school, work, performances and auditions.

When she arrived at the Kurt Bestor “Best Singer Search,” the above-mentioned competition, Richardson found herself among a large crowd of singers. About 70 singers had auditioned, and more than 130 were ahead of her. At this point, Richardson knew that if she stayed until her number was called, she would miss her performance at the theater.

Richardson frantically asked strangers who were ahead in the line if they would trade slots with her, but her efforts failed. When she pleaded with event organizers, they told her she would be welcome to come back to audition when she finished her show, but only if, by the time she made it back, there were still people in line.

Around 9:45 p.m., after she finished her show in West Valley City, Richardson “booked it” over to the Gateway, her fingers crossed, she said. When she arrived, only four people remained in line. Richardson would get her shot.

“I really wanted to sing for (Bestor),” Richardson said. “It was a miracle. If I had shown up ten minutes later, I would have missed the audition completely.”

After rushing back from her show, Richardson was hoping she would get a few minutes to prepare for the audition, but event organizers were ready for her immediately.

“As soon as I went in to get ready, I only had time to put on one earring when they called my name and I wasn’t prepared,” Richardson said. “But, I got up there and stuck to my plan, and it worked.”

Despite not having enough preparation time, Richardson focused. Singing the gospel song “Again,” her audition impressed the Utah-based musician Bestor, who announced that she was the winner weeks later.

“Erica is just amazing,” said Debra Cook, a professor in the department of theater and Richardson’s private voice teacher. “She has a big work load and puts out her best work every time. She has incredible determination.”

Richardson beat out more than 500 other singers, earning her a chance to perform alongside Bestor in his annual Holiday concert, which starts tonight at Abravanel Hall. The show will run through Saturday.

As part of her prize, Bestor will fly her to Los Angeles in the near future to meet with record company executives to see if she can make her singing a career.

Winning the competition and the trip is a “blessing,” Richardson said. “I get the chance to get out there and, if I can, take this further.”

As a child, Richardson looked to Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight, Deborah Cox, Jewel, Tori Amos and Mariah Carey as some of her biggest inspirations.

Richardson grew up in Connecticut with three other siblings. Although they often struggled financially, they often sang as a family.

“My parents were always asking me to sing,” Richardson said. “My mom knew I wanted to go into singing. She always told me, ‘You go for it, you do it.’ She was my biggest cheerleader.”

Her mother died three years ago, but even on her deathbed, she told Richardson to keep singing.

“She’s been able to really accomplish a lot in her education,” Cook said. “All without a lot of financial resources.”

Richardson moved to Utah to attend Utah Valley State College in Orem but didn’t like the program there.

Now at the U, she has developed a passion for acting. The program has taught her about the business side of performing as well as mastering her art, she said.

Richardson is also developing into a songwriter, writing songs about her life, the relationships she has had, God and her feelings about society. Her songs fit well into the “Neo-Soul” genre, she said, similar to some of her current influences Alicia Keys, India Arie and Jill Scott.

Richardson can do it all, Cook said.

“In our department, you have to learn to sing everything from country to opera,” she said. “Her voice is very versatile. She will be successful in whatever she puts her mind to.”

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