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Belle belts it on ‘The Voice’

Bridget Feeney | Thursday, November 29, 2012

While many students occupied their time this past semester studying abroad, working an internship or balancing homework and other extra-curriculars, one Saint Mary’s student spent the last several months living out her dream as a singer.

Sylvia Yacoub, a Saint Mary’s sophomore, took the year off to pursue her aspirations of becoming a professional singer when she auditioned for “The Voice,” an NBC reality television show where participants compete on teams coached by successful musicians. When singers are selected to participate on the show, they have the option to choose to be coached by one of four artists: Christina Aguilera, Blake Shelton, Adam Levine and Cee Lo Green.

Yacoub chose Aguilera and said the opportunity to work with her has been an unforgettable one.

“Getting the chance to work with [Aguilera] and perform with her has been incredible,” she said. “She has been my idol since I was a little girl and to know that she knows who I am personally is awesome. We connected so easily both artistically and emotionally.”

Throughout the rehearsals and performances, Aguilera acted as a mentor to Yacoub, coaching her during her time on the show. In addition for the chance to learn under Aguilera, Yacoub said she especially enjoyed getting to know her coach’s personality and work ethic.

“She’s a strong woman and stands for what she wants – and I love that about her,” Yacoub said. “You have all these ideas about how great your idol is and to meet Christina and to have her exceed all of my expectations was really cool. She was probably the most real person [at “The Voice”], and she was always herself. That is something I respect.”

Though Yacoub received coaching and advice from Aguilera throughout the competition, she was also able to hear the other coaches’ opinions about her performances. Yacoub said she really enjoyed that aspect of “The Voice” and was grateful to hear additional feedback on her singing.

“It was awesome,” she said. “Not everyone gets coached by their idol, let alone four different amazing singers. [They] are all really different artists and that feedback really helps you grow because you realize ‘Well this group thinks this, so I need to improve on this.’ It was great.”

While the comments and advice from Aguilera and the other three coaches were extremely helpful to Yacoub, she said she also benefited greatly from the support of the Saint Mary’s community and her hometown of Muskegon, Mich.

“Everyone’s support means the world to me,” she said. “Friends, and even people I don’t know and alumni are all reaching out to me. The support has been impeccable and I personally feel I had one of the best hometown and school backings [on “The Voice”]. It feels great to know so many people support me.”

The support from all of her fans helped Yacoub push through some of the more stressful parts of her time on the show. She said the experience of rehearsals, performing and competing was an “emotional rollercoaster.”

“I think I cried more on the show than I have in my entire life,” she said. “You just spin through so many different emotions. You go so quickly from excitement to being nervous to ‘I could go home tonight’ to ‘Oh my gosh, America saved me’ – it was crazy.”

After making it onto the show after the blind auditions and advancing past the knockouts into the top 10, Yacoub was voted off of the competition last week after her performance of Alicia Keys’s “Girl on Fire.” While Yacoub is disappointed she is no longer on “The Voice,” she said she was expecting the elimination.

“I kind of had a feeling I would go home,” she said. “I had mentally prepared myself and got it all out of my system the night before. I just had this gut feeling. But I was really happy with my last performance – it had a message I think is really important and the coaches were happy with it, too.”

While her time on “The Voice” is over, she said her plans to return back to Saint Mary’s are still  being finalized. Because she is still under contract with NBC and “The Voice,” she is unable to make any definite plans right now.

“I definitely will come back to Saint Mary’s and visit,” she said. “There is a possibility I will be back next semester to finish the year but everything is still up in the air. It all depends on my career and me moving forward with my singing.”

Despite her uncertainties at the moment, Yacoub said she is confident in her career and hopes others take inspiration from her success on the show.

“I’ve opened a lot of doors by being in this competition and making it to the Top 10, so expect more coming from me,” she said. “I hope my experience shows that someone with literally no connections can make it and that I’ve given people the drive and push to shoot for what you want.”