Stephani Schmidt is a second-year master’s student in the college student affairs and the adviser of NSU’s first female a cappella group The Riff Tides. Singing has been a big part of Stephani’s life since a young age and something she really loves to do. She hopes her story demonstrates that failure is an opportunity for growth and learning.
I have been singing for as long as I can remember. The first time I remember singing — and singing well — I was in first grade. I stood next to my mom in church and sang a different part of the hymn we were singing, what I came to know as harmony. When the hymn was over, my mom turned to me and asked where I had learned that part of the song. I just told her it sounded good to me. I’ve been singing ever since.
In high school, I was in all the plays and musicals. I was even Dorothy in “Wizard of Oz.” Before my senior year, I auditioned for “American Idol.” Mom and I flew down to Atlanta and I was ready to make it big. Long story short, I made it past the first round but not past that. The executive producers told me I was a great singer but should come back again next year. That broke me down; here I was being told I was good, but not good enough to make the show.
After I got over not making the show, I decided that I wanted to go to Central Michigan University to study vocal music. My first week there, I auditioned for Central Harmony, the coed a cappella group on campus. I was in love. I sang classical music by day and pop music by night.
My first year flew by with all the fun I had. The summer before sophomore year, I decided to audition for “American Idol” again. This time, I drove to Chicago for the auditions and, again, I made it past the first round. The executive producers then told me, for a second time, “You’re great. But please come back next year.” At that point, I decided I wanted to finish my degree.
I sang throughout college, especially in a cappella, though I switched from a coed group to an all-female one, called On the Rox. It was with that group that I truly found myself in college. I became the music director after one semester and helped us earn fourth place in the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella (ICCA) regional state competition. Yes, this is the competition that is featured in “Pitch Perfect.”
I loved my time in college being a performer, but then I decided to get a master’s degree in something a bit different. I found my way to NSU to pursue a degree in college student affairs. Last year, was my first year and, boy, did Miami change my life. I was given the opportunity to sing the national anthem for the Florida Panthers. It was incredible to be on the ice and sing for that many people. I was also asked to help develop the first a cappella group on NSU’s campus, The Riff Tides. My first year as a Shark was a definite blast.
During the summer, I decided to travel to New York City for “The Voice” auditions. It was an incredible experience. I was one of few people to make it to the executive producers’ audition. I was ready to take my singing to the next level; I was ready for my dreams to finally come true. Unfortunately, “The Voice” didn’t agree. I was told that I was a breath of fresh air, the best they had seen in the city, but my story was not quite what they were looking for. I just didn’t make the cut to make it on TV.
Some may think that, after all these failures, I would give up. But the biggest lesson I’ve learned is to keep trying. Failure is an option — a great one. How else would we learn how to improve ourselves? Besides, I don’t see not making a reality show as a failure; I see it as a stepping stone to help me succeed in the future. For now, I’m happy working in the Commuter and Transfer Student Services Office as a graduate assistant and advising the Riff Tides. I graduate in June 2014. We’ll see where my dreams lead me after that.