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Willmar woman to audition for 'The Voice'

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Tabitha Ryan is pictured Tuesday following an interview at Caribou Coffee in Willmar. Ryan will attend open auditions this weekend in Minneapolis for a chance to appear on the upcoming season of the NBC reality singing contest “The Voice.” (DAN BURDETT | TRIBUNE)3 / 4
Tabitha Ryan sings “Feeling Good” during a video session Tuesday at the West Central Tribune. Ryan has been singing since she was 2. She once auditioned in vain for “American Idol” and this weekend will audition for “The Voice.” (DAN BURDETT | TRIBUNE)4 / 4

When “The Voice” comes to Minnesota on Saturday to audition singers to fill its roster for the new season, among the hopefuls will be a 25-year-old coffee shop manager from Willmar.

Tabitha Ryan will make the two-hour drive east to the Minneapolis Convention Center, mom in tow, with hopes the popular reality singing contest will springboard her musical aspirations.

“I’m nervous, but it’s exciting,” Ryan said during an interview Tuesday from the patio at Caribou Coffee on Willmar’s First Street South, where she is employed. “I’m just trying to get my foot in the door at this point.”

Ryan lives and breathes music.

She has been crooning since she was 2 and later crafted a niché in children’s theater productions in her hometown of Wichita, a sprawling manufacturing center on the Arkansas River in Kansas. Six years ago, she auditioned in vain for “American Idol.”

Her bond with song is deep, she said, admitting it helped shape her confidence after years of being bullied as a “heavy-set kid.” She’s more than 100 pounds lighter today.

“It (singing) sorta became a release for me,” she said. “ … something I could turn to. I guess it just makes me happy.”

She draws inspiration from pop sensation Pink, the acclaimed indie folk duo The Civil Wars, soul superstar Adele and R&B vet Alicia Keys, who, coincidently, will join fellow newbie Miley Cyrus and stalwarts Adam Levine and Blake Shelton as “The Voice” judges this year.

“Oh, man, to perform in front of Alicia Keys … if I’m that lucky. Wow,” Ryan said. “That would be amazing.”

Ryan will arrive in Minneapolis sometime Saturday morning.

Once at the venue, she will have to go through three rounds of auditions before she stands before the judges. The first two rounds are a cappella performances — sans musical accompaniment. She has selected to perform “Misery,” a duet by Pink and Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler, and “Feeling Good,” popularized in 1965 by Nina Simone and a 2005 hit for Michael Bublé.

If she makes it to the third round, known as a callback, she must have three current songs of any genre at her disposal. She may also be asked to sing a song of a producer’s choosing. If she ultimately makes it before the judges, she’ll turn her hand to Adele.

“If nothing comes from this, at least I gave it a shot,” Ryan said. “Then maybe I can try to get something going locally here in Willmar.”

“The Voice” began airing on NBC in April 2011 and has been a mainstay in the reality TV ranks — and a social media craze — since. The second season premiere drew more than 37 million viewers and the show’s official Twitter page has more than 4.3 million followers.

Season 11 of the show will premiere in September, though no official date has been released by NBC.

Dan Burdett

Dan Burdett is the community content coordinator at the West Central Tribune. He has 13 years experience in print media, to include four years enlisted service in the United States Air Force. He has been an employee of Forum Communications since 2005, joining the company after spending two years as the managing editor of the Redwood Gazette and Livewire in Redwood Falls. Prior to his current position, Dan was the presentation editor at the Tribune.

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