I don’t know how many of you have a friend who is vocally gifted, but this much is true about them: they love to sing. They will sing anytime, anywhere and for any reason. My friend Ben Ryan falls into this category.
But, he’s not just a good singer. He’s a great singer. A member of the Springfield College acapella group who’s made appearances singing for the jazz band, Ben’s vocal skills trump the skills of just about anybody else. I’ve watched him sing in concerts in front of a large crowd. I’ve watched him sing in his room while we watched the World Series.
In fact, when I first met Ben, the first thing that struck me was how talented he was with singing. I’ve known for quite some time that Ben’s singing ability could carry him further than just Alden Street.
Early in February, I wandered into Ben’s room on a Saturday night. He laid on his bed, looked at me and said, “well, I just signed up for The Voice.” The Voice, for those of you who do not know, is widely regarded as the premier singing contest show on network television. Musical stars from Christina Aguilera to Adam Levine serve as judges. Each judge picks contestants to work with in anticipation of winning the grand prize, a recording contract.
Ben explained to me on that Saturday night that the tryouts were in Philadelphia, Penn.- roughly four hours from Springfield, Mass. The four-hour distance didn’t even cross my mind before I said “road trip to Philly.”
So, over a month later on Feb. 19, myself, Ben and our friends Greg Allen and Whit DeVaux packed into my Toyota Corolla and rode Rt. 95 south all the way to the City of Brotherly Love. Despite hitting a clump of traffic in Connecticut, we arrived at the Holiday Inn on Walnut Street safe and sound. While Allen, DeVaux and I went to explore Philly late at night, Ben hit the hay in anticipation of his big day: the first round of The Voice tryouts.
Fast forward to 11 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 20, and the four of us found ourselves standing in a long, winding line next to the Philadelphia Convention Center. Now, say what you want about us, but we weren’t waiting in line with Ben. Greg, Whit and I took off to explore the rest of Philadelphia while Ben sat in line with the rest of the 17,000 Voice hopefuls.
It was a tale of two days for us and Ben. We ate Philly Cheese-steaks and saw the Liberty Bell. Ben sat nervously in a line rehearsing Superstition by Stevie Wonder. After sitting in line for hours, Ben texted us: “I’m going in.”
We hurried to the convention center to hopefully meet our victorious friend on his way out. While I sat by the door, my own stomach was turning with anticipation – and I can only imagine it was just a small percentage of the anxiety and nervousness Ben felt.
Finally, Ben emerged from the convention center – with no red ticket. Despite reportedly nailing his audition, Ben was not selected to advance. Despite being discouraged, Ben still held his head high.
So, why am I writing about someone who eventually lost? Because he took a chance. He gambled on himself, took a nine-hour round trip drive to a foreign city (with his friends of course), stood in line for hours just to sing for mere seconds in front of an unknown judge.
Ben took a risk. Did it pay off? No, not necessarily. But Ben’s journey should be a lesson to all hopefuls out there. Whether it’s singing, dancing, athletics, whatever – gamble on yourself. It might just pay off.