May seeks NBC’s AGT

Bearden High School teacher auditions in song for hit show ‘America’s Got Talent’

Vicki May hopes her local singing audition will earn her a spot on NBC’s hit show “America’s Got Talent.”
Bearden High School art and photography teacher Vicki May was intrigued, but unsure, when her sister suggested she try out for the Knoxville auditions of “America’s Got Talent” late last year.

A vocal artist who currently serves as a member of the worship team at Faith Promise Church and also is lead singer for the local ’80s cover band “Vinyl Tap,” the try-outs were not on her radar until her sister suggested it.

“She has always been a big supporter of mine, and when she found out they were coming she encouraged me to try out,” said May, who was a bit skittish about the show’s preliminary audition, held locally Nov. 15 in Knoxville Convention Center.

That audition was one of dozens held throughout the country — and the first one ever in Knoxville — as precursors of auditions that will be recorded for national broadcasting when the popular NBC variety show begins its new season in May.

“I mean, chances are slim,” she said. “They were looking for all kinds of talent and there are a lot of talented people in the area.”

May decided she would take the plunge on one condition: if she was among the winners of a WBIR-TV contest awarding front-of-the-line passes for the try-outs.

“We had to submit a tape then be voted on by viewers,” recalled May, whose gamble paid off as she was one of the 20 winners chosen among thousands of entries.

She quickly chose her audition song, Journey’s “Stone in Love,” then asked for the day off from her teaching duties and booked a substitute.

May said the audition process “was a smooth one. They were very organized and very thorough,” adding that the speedy pass she had won was a “huge help” in cutting down the time she spent there, which was about two hours.

“There were multiple lines, but they weren’t bad.”

May said she was in a group of 30 who were individually called on to state their names, occupations and what would be performed.

One producer, who would determine who would pass on to the next level, comprised the entire audience, she said.

“We each only got 90 seconds, so I got through two verses and was cut off at the end of second chorus,” May said, noting the performances were a cappella. “They didn’t keep anyone in my group and none of us knew how we did or whether we would be going on or not.

“Most of the other performers were all good,” she added. “A girl from West Virginia sang an original song. She reminded me of June Carter Cash.”

May said she also witnessed an auditioner with the nickname “Dancing Trucker” who got some local press.

While she won’t know until March if her audition will land her in front of famous AGT judges Simon Cowell, Howie Mandell, Mel B. and Heidi Klum, May said the experience was a “great one.”

“I think if I had done it five or six years ago, I would have been petrified,” she said, noting that working with the church and the band in recent years had helped calm any performance fears she might have had.

“And my students were really sweet and really excited for me.”

May has sung since childhood but only stepped out into public singing during the last six years or so.

“My dad was a musician, and his band played an eclectic mix of music,” she said. “I was always around music and me and my sister and him sang together as a family.”

May said she found a niche in high school, singing in both school choirs and in church, a path she picked up again at Faith Promise several years ago.

“I found a new place to use what God gave me,” she said of joining the worship team.

“As much as I love teaching and giving everything I have to my kids, singing has helped me be more rounded and to have another creative outlet has changed my life.”

May is glad she took the opportunity to try out for AGT, regardless of the outcome.

“It was probably as far as I go, but I told (my students) there is nothing wrong with trying and to following your dreams,” she said. “Sometimes dreams don’t work out like you think, but you need to try, and at least I can say that I tried.”