PLYMOUTH — Sara Shiff’s first memory of singing is at a neighborhood party when she was 3 or 4, standing next to an Elvis impersonator. Her parents have videos of her singing even before her performance with “Elvis.”
Shiff was the first winner of Plymouth Sings — a contest she pushed the city to implement last year so she could compete in the statewide Minnesota Sings competition.
The Minnesota Sings contest has singers from all over the state competing for a $5,000 prize, but they must first win their city’s contest. Shiff — who is no stranger to singing competitions — wanted to participate in Minnesota Sings, and spoke with the city of Plymouth about creating a Plymouth Sings.
“I was really excited. I was more excited to go and see all the top singers across the state and make a lot of new friends, which was really exciting,” she said.
Shiff is a junior at Robbinsdale Armstrong High School in Plymouth and has had quite a busy year competing in five different singing competitions in the Twin Cities, winning first place in two of them — The National Association of Teachers of Singing Competition and the Thursday Musical competition. In addition to her classes and preparing for college, she also attends lessons at the MacPhail Center for Music in Minneapolis.
Shiff is auditioning for Plymouth Sings again this year, hoping again to make it to the Minnesota Sings competition. But this year she aims to take home the $5,000 prize, which she says she’ll put toward her college education. Shiff plans on majoring in political science and vocal performance at whatever college she decides to attend.
“Basically, I either want to go to law school or get a masters in vocal performance and go into musical theatre and opera,” Shiff said.
For a lot of local singers, on top of the prestige of winning a contest like Minnesota Sings, the prize money helps pay for lessons, summer music programs, traveling for auditions and ultimately college, Shiff said.
For Shiff, it comes down to a love of singing. As stressful as the past year has been with all the singing contests she’s competed in, she says she can think back on each one and remember them fondly because she got to sing and meet other singers from around Minnesota.
At last year’s Minnesota Sings competition, each singer from the participating cities sang twice during a two-day period. Finalists in the competition sang once more the final evening. Shiff made it to the final round of the competition.
It is recommended singers choose songs from different genres of music, Shiff said, and while Minnesota Sings features a lot of modern pop music, there are other genres such as jazz and classical. This makes it unique compared to a lot of other singing competitions, Shiff explained.
“They still judge you on diction and your performance value, but it’s not the same as going to a strictly opera competition at the U of M,” Shiff said.
Auditions for Plymouth Sings are June 10-11 at Plymouth Creek Center’s Black Box Theater, 14800 34th Ave. N. Audition spots must be reserved. The best singers from the auditions will then perform in the Plymouth Sings Finals at 7 p.m. on June 13 at the Hilde Performance Center, 3500 Plymouth Blvd. The finals are free and open to the public.
A winner and runner-up from each age group (15-25 years old and 26 and older) will go on to represent the city of Plymouth in the Minnesota Sings competition on Sept. 28-29.
The Minnesota Sings website is www.minnesotasings.com.