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Local scores auditions for 'The Voice,' 'America's Got Talent'



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Robert Navarre plays a double neck SG guitar. (click for larger version)
March 07, 2012 - DJ Robert Navarre hasn't sung professionally since 2002, when his son, James, was born.

Navarre, a Goodrich resident, still makes his living in music, as owner of Full Effect DJ Service and also as a professional guitarist. But a simple suggestion from his son may result in Navarre singing in front of a national audience.

Last month, Navarre applied to audition for both "America's Got Talent," and "The Voice," reality television competitions on NBC, after James told his father he should try out for the shows.

Navarre followed his son's advice and a week later, was contacted by representatives of both tv shows, who had seen YouTube clips of him performing, including his rendition of "Stairway to Heaven," by Led Zeppelin.

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"It was exciting when they called, you don't expect that," said Navarre. "It was odd to get them both in a one-week period."

He traveled first to New York City, to perform Feb. 27 at the Jacob Javitz Center for the producers of "America's Got Talent."

Navarre had a disc jockey gig in Michigan the night before until 6 p.m. and left directly from that engagement to drive to New York. He arrived around 5 a.m. the morning he would audition and figured he would sleep in line, but didn't get to do so.

He was called in to an audition room around 8 a.m.

"With other musical auditions, you get to warm up and play— this was very different than auditioning for a group or something local. You walk in and play cold. I was a little nervous. You have to be, or you don't have a heartbeat. I wasn't nervous to play, just the anticipation."

Most nerve-wracking for Navarre was that he had to memorize the lyrics, something he hasn't tried to do before, always using sheet music to perform his repertoire of about 2,000 songs. He didn't have any trouble though, as he sang, as well as played unplugged on acoustic guitar, "Pinball Wizard," by The Who. He kept his audition to just 90 seconds, per request. He was then asked to play a second song. This time it was "I'll Be," by Edwin McCain.

"There is no feedback, they don't tell you whether you're good or bad, they just tell you whether they want you to play again," Navarre said. "Then they just thanked me and said they will call in two weeks to confirm that I'm still in."

At the AGT audition, Navarre met people who are just having fun with their talents, and others who work at it for hours per day. He is in the latter category—playing guitar a minimum of 3-4 hours daily and, of course, conducting DJ services regularly.

Navarre's audition for "The Voice," solely a singer competition, was March 3 in Chicago at McCormick Place. Six thousand people showed up for an open call to get the opportunity to perform on the show, which is currently airing on Monday nights, next season.

"There was 10 times the quality of talent that I saw at AGT," said Navarre. "There were people I was blown away that they didn't advance."

At "The Voice" audition, he was unable to play his guitar and was asked to sing acapella. Navarre sang "I'll Be."

"Before I auditioned, the producer told me she looks down while people sing, so that it's more of a blind audition, in the spirit of the show," recalled Navarre. "But on my first note, her head popped up and she stared at me the entire audition. I was like, 'Ok, she lied to me.'"

He carried on without missing a note, again for the 90-second time limit. He was sent back out, and after 30 minutes, was called in again to sing "More Than Words," by Extreme.

Navarre's audition was then over. Like AGT, he remains in the competition, waiting for a call with further instructions.

"I'm not looking for anything from these shows, just to play and sing," said Navarre, who will release a CD, "Natural," in May. "That is all I've ever wanted to do."

Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville
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