Valdosta Daily Times

January 26, 2013

Valdosta High School senior auditions for ‘The Voice’

Caitlin Barker
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — Will it be team Adam or team Blake? That is just one of the many decisions 17-year-old Valdosta native Jashuna Richard will have to consider on her way to stardom.

A Valdosta High School senior, Richard got the idea to try out for NBC’s vocal competition, “The Voice,” one night when she was watching the show with her stepmother, Margaret.

“Last summer, I was watching the show with my stepmom. She said I should use my talent, so I decided to try out next year,” Richard said.

Sticking to her word, Jashuna decided to take her talent to Los Angeles, alongside her godparents, David and Marion Griffith.

Richard has been singing for 15 years, never realizing at such a young age, that she would ever develop “The Voice”-like talent.

“I started singing at a young age. My uncle was playing the piano one Christmas and I just walked up and started singing,” Richard said. “I sing everywhere.”

Singing came very naturally to Jashuna. Growing up as a middle child, she drew inspiration from her mother and grandmother, who were both singers. She also looks up to her uncle, Thaddeus Richard, who worked with Paul McCartney and the band Wings, in the mid ’70s.

“I sing at school, church, the mall,” Richard said. “I just have a talent that God gave me, so I’m going to use it.”

From singing in the shower, to singing at the Christian Fellowship Church in Adel, her years of hard work have certainly paid off. Now blessed with the opportunity to move forward in the competition, Jashuna continues to keep an open mind about the audition process.

  “I am excited but it’s kind of aggravating with all of the stuff that comes with it,” Richard said. “People think it’s easy, but it’s a long process. It was a long experience.

. I was there for two days but it felt like forever.”

Jashuna was given two songs to learn and perform, in front of a panel of random judges, in one day. She sang “Next to Me” by Emeli Sandé, and “This Girl is on Fire” by Alicia Keys. She also sang “Baby” by Justin Bieber and “All I Could Do is Cry” by Etta James, at the beginning of her auditions.

After her performances, Jashuna was a little unsure if she would progress to the next level.

“It was nerve wracking. I thought there were people who were better than me,” Richard said. “But I had no shame in my game.”

Jashuna found out quickly, that her “game” was just what the judges wanted.

“I didn’t think I would make it at first, I wasn’t ready to be on TV,” Richard said.

Jashuna competed against and beat approximately 5,000 people in her first audition. Advancing to her second, numbers narrowed to approximately 19 or 20 people she was competing against. Moving into her third audition, all she can say is that she is hungry for more.

With so many vocal competitions in the nation, Jashuna stands strongly behind her choice to tryout for “The Voice.”

“I didn’t choose ‘Idol’ because people win based on how they look, not all of the winners can sing. I didn’t choose ‘The X Factor’ because Simon Cowell is too smart with his words,” Richard said. “Plus, I think Adam Levine is cute.”

With no particular “Voice” judge in mind, if she advances, it has always been a dream of Jashuna’s to meet musical sensation, Usher. He is one of the new judges on “The Voice,” as well as Shakira, who replace Cee Lo Green and Christina Aguilera on this upcoming season.

“I love Usher. I grew up listening to him. My favorite song is ‘Can You Help Me,’” Richard said.

With strong support from her family, friends and the Valdosta High staff, Jashuna refuses to let her excitement overtake her.

“Even if I stop right here, it has been a blessing for me,” she said.

In hopes to keep moving forward, Jashuna is extremely thankful to her principal, Dr. Janice Richardson, and her chorus teacher, Ashley Cooper, for their encouragement.

“My principal pushed me, not for the school or for the community, but to use my talent,” Richard said. “My chorus teacher, she’s not just a teacher but she’s also a friend. She’s calm, talks to her students like she is one of them and takes people away from their shyness.”

Aside from her hopes of moving up in the competition, Jashuna plans to enjoy and participate heavily in her senior year of high school. Her chorus group plans to visit the Fellowship Home and the Langdale Place this year, to sing for the elderly.

“I love to see them smiling and clapping to the music,” Richard said.

With the City of Valdosta rooting for Richard, her chorus teacher, Ashley Cooper, could not be more proud of her student.

“I am very excited and proud of her and how she is representing our choral department with her talent,” Cooper said.

“The Voice” premieres Monday, March 25, on NBC.