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'The Voice:' Inside the Houston auditions

HOUSTONThousands showed up in downtown Houston at Minute Maid Park Saturday in hopes of being the next voice. Click2Houston.com digital news editor, Lea Wilson was there with an insider’s view of the audition:

Many arrived before the sun, as early as 4 a.m., to line up for their chance to show judges of the reality show "The Voice" that they are the next big star.

I arrived at the park at 7:10 a.m. for my 7 a.m. audition, yes, late, I know. It took me another 20 minutes to find parking that wasn't a mile away and didn’t cost $20. Low and behold, after what seemed like my 50th time around the park, I found one open parking space in a tiny lot that only cost $5! Eureka!

In addition to being late, I almost walked in the opposite direction of the ball field.

On the right track though, I made it to the park more than a half hour after my call time. By then, the line was wrapped the entire way around the block. Thankfully, I had a front of the line VIP pass. Within 2 minutes I was inside the park and headed to the first round of judges.

Inside the doors, members of "The Voice" staff broke down the massive single file line into groups of four.
"Remember who you're standing next to. These are your audition buddies," the organizer said.

Once in our groups, most of us quickly began talking and bonding, sharing where we came from, what we do for a living, our family dynamic. We even tried guessing what we could expect from during audition process. 

Several minutes later we were led into the stadium and seated by groups.

"If you need to go to the bathroom, now is the time. After this, you head to the skyboxes where you'll audition," one of the organizers yelled.

In the stadium seats we waited once again. We watched several groups leave the area and many new ones join us in holding. We talked, sang and bonded more as we awaited our fates.

About 30 minutes later it was finally my group's turn to head into the audition area.

"These five rows, stand up and follow me," an organizer said.

Some of us nervous, some of us confident, we stood and followed. Up the stadium stairs, up one escalator and then another, we were led into the hall just outside the 16 audition rooms. Thirteen, that's the room number my group was placed in front of. Thirteen, my favorite number. Thirteen was the number standing between and what I hoped would be a positive twist of fate.

As we stood outside the room, most in my group fell silent, concentrating on strategy or quietly practicing.

Me, I prayed.

"Lord, if this is for me, let it be," I prayed under my breath.

About 15 minutes later the door to room 13 opened and in my group, along with two others, went.
There were 12 chairs lined up along the wall.

"Come in and have a seat," the judge said with a smile. "Turn off your phones off and put them away. If your phone rings or you answer a text, I'm putting you out!”

We all complied, including a couple of the parents in the room.

Speaking quickly, the judge said, "What's going to happen is, I'll call you up by name, you'll stand on the line and sing a verse and chorus of your song. If I put my hand up, it doesn't mean you did anything wrong. We have more than 7,000 people to audition today so we've got to make this as quick as possible.”

One by one she called our first names. Four names later she called out, "Lea! What are you going to sing?"
"The National Anthem," I replied with confidence.

"Pick something else," she immediately said.

My mind went blank. That's the song I'd spent the most time rehearsing. What does she mean pick another song? I tried to think of Ella Fitzgerald’s "Summertime" but the words just wouldn't come to me. After what felt like an eternity, but was really only a few seconds, a song popped into my head. I started clapping and encouraging the others to clap along. With a smile and a bit of nervousness I hadn't felt until that very moment, the words came from my lips. 

"Lookin' back on when I was a little nappy headed boy...I wish those days would come back once more..." I sang.

I ended the chorus of Stevie Wonder's " I Wish" and noticed the judge circle something on my audition paper. She hadn't done that for anyone else. What does that mean? All I could think was, 'I think I made it!’ Excitement started to swell and though I smiled and bobbed my head, I couldn't really hear what anyone else was singing. I just wanted it to be over so I could know my fate. After three tries, had I finally made it past the first round of "The Voice" auditions? Could I be headed to Hollywood?

The last hopeful hit her final note and all eyes were on the judge.

"Let me first say, it takes a lot of courage to come out here and sing in front of people you've never met before," she said. "With that said, I've got two maybes. It doesn't mean yes, but it doesn't mean no. It means I need time to think about it. By the end of the day, if I decide you're moving on, I'll call you."

All I could do was hope to be a maybe.

"My duo and Lea. Give me until the end of the day and if you're picked, I'll call you. David and Derek, you're moving on to the next round," the judge announced.

Immediately I was excited. It wasn't exactly a yes, but it beat a no. Somehow that validated all the years of hard work for me. All the bands, I’ve fronted. The late nights away from my family chasing this crazy dream were about to mean more than just a dream.

We exited the room and I turned the volume all the way up on my phone and waited.

For me, the day ended without a call from “The Voice” but I feel even more encouraged than ever. I did it, I stepped out. I took a risk and it wasn’t all bad. Who knows, the next big leap of faith may just turn out to be an emphatic yes!