If you thought you were hearing things the past few Monday evenings, rest assured you weren’t: it was just the wind carrying the sound of woots and huzzahs across the county as several local vocalists made the cut on the hit television show The Voice.
The vocal competition program on NBC, now in its second season, airs Mondays at 8 p.m. and pits celebrity judges against one another as team leaders. The celebrated singers, Christina Aguilera, Cee Lo, Adam Levine (Maroon 5) and country music artist Blake Shelton, choose their team members during televised auditions. Once the teams are assembled, the celebrities coach and finesse their singers, eventually paring them down to a group of finalists. The cream of the crop then go up against each other and the winner, who receives a recording contract, is determined by the viewing audience.
This week, Ventura’s own, Lee Koch, was chosen by Aguilera who was wowed not only by his voice but also his musicianship. Koch was surprised that she chose him. He told VCReporter "She was the last coach I thought would turn around for me." Not long ago Koch had become disenchanted with pursuing a performance career, saying that trying to earn money playing music was "draining" his interest in music altogether. He recently moved from Ventura back to his hometown of Temecula to be a baker, but when the opportunity knocked to compete on The Voice, he decided to answer.
Another familiar face, Orlando Napier, a Santa Barbara resident who performs regularly in Ventura was chosen for Levine’s team. A couple of years ago, Mark Hartley, country music managment executive and owner of the Watermark on Main and W20 Lounge told VCReporter that Napier was one of the most talented local artists, one he thought had the potential to put the area’s music scene on the national map.
Tuesday morning the Zoey’s Cafe Facebook page was abuzz with congratulatory comments as eight of the performers chosen so far have been regulars at the singer-songwriter’s haven in downtown Ventura-including Angel Taylor (Team Adam) whose first live performance was on the Zoey’s stage at its original location. Someone even remarked that The Voice is basically just a regular night at Zoey’s.
There is such a diverse and concentrated amount of musical talent in Ventura County that it was only a matter of time before word spread beyond the 805, but no one could have predicted it would have been via a prime time TV talent show.
Last week, Simi Valley’s Monique Benabou, who has been a regular at Camarillo’s Rock City Studios, also made Aguilera’s team.
As the competition continues, deciding who to pull for will get exceedingly difficult with so many of our own in the mix-but it will be particularly tricky for Steve and Polly Hoganson, who own Zoey’s, because the competing artists from Ventura County have grown up on their stage.
"We look at them as our kids," said Polly. "It’s like Sophie’s Choice."
She said that many of the artists have bonded during filming of The Voice and they are all rooting for each other because they know how hard it is to make it. "We’re so excited for every single one."
There is a viewing party at Zoey’s every Monday at 8 p.m. For those who haven’t been tuning in, Hulu.com has previous episodes for free. All the performers’ audition songs are available for purchase on iTunes.