The Stuff Dreams Are Made Of

Lily McKnight’s first piano class as a freshman at Southeast Missouri State University’s Department of Music began in an unusual and most unexpected way, when she heard an unfamiliar person say, “I hear you have quite the voice.” Surprised, Lily looked up and caught the gaze of one of the department’s noted professors of music. She wondered how the professor already knew who she was, and how they had heard about her singing. Had one of the members of the entrance audition jury been talking about her? After all, they had offered her entrance as a music degree candidate on the spot, and sweetened the offer with two substantial scholarships. Lily, a very humble and modest young lady, wasn’t used to this kind of attention.

As a child, Lily had always loved singing. Singing as a profession and career choice hadn’t ever crossed her mind, though. Her journey began through her mother, Cari McKnight, a lead singer for the premier St. Louis area band, All Mixed Up. Cari noticed that the band’s demanding schedule and repertoire were fatiguing her voice. She realized she needed expert help if she wanted to sing with greater stamina, and to avoid serious vocal problems and long-term damage. In addition to learning proper singing technique, she also decided singing lessons would be a good opportunity to improve her musicianship skills.

Photo: Cari McKnight singing with her band, All Mixed Up, at Fast Eddie's in Alton, IL

Knowing that anyone can call themselves a voice teacher, Cari took her search very seriously. Where could she find a true professional: a qualified, reputable teacher with the requisite skills, experience, and track record? Cari turned to the internet where, through a process of elimination, she discovered Michael Rocchio, Teacher of Singing & Professional Singer.

Cari liked what she saw: impeccable credentials, decades of experience, and dozens of glowing testimonials. She knew she’d found an exceptional opportunity, and contacted Michael to request an interview. It wasn’t long after that Michael accepted her into his voice studio. Cari worked very hard, and experienced great improvement under his tutelage.

Cari was so happy with her own progress that she decided to ask Michael about giving lessons to her daughter, Lily, as well. She knew Lily loved singing and had a gift for it, but that she needed knowledge and direction. Michael agreed to meet with Lily.

An Exceptional Voice

Michael immediately recognized that Lily had an exceptional voice. Both as a favor to Cari, and to ensure Lily would get the best possible start, Michael took her into his studio even though she was a bit younger than his usual age minimum. Lily was quick and bright, but like so many teenagers, she didn’t believe in herself. She thought that Michael was “just being nice” when he told her she had a gift. Michael knew that her lack of belief in herself and her talent would hold her back. He refused to let her off the hook. Her lessons went beyond singing technique as he relentlessly coaxed her to reach beyond herself in the pursuit of excellence.

Prior to beginning study, Lily’s only solo had been a one-liner in a school musical. Otherwise, her talent had been relegated to the chorus. One day, something clicked. She began to make the link between her talent, her voice, and herself. With Michael’s encouragement and coaching, she auditioned for a local theater group production of “Beauty and the Beast”. The audition panel was so impressed by her voice and stage presence, that in spite of never having worked with her before, they offered her the female lead, “Belle”.

Gold Medal Winner

It was time to get serious. That which had been impossible suddenly became not just possible, but do-able. Lily was shocked, yet proud and excited…and hungry. She threw herself passionately into her lessons as she came to grips with what Michael had been telling her all along.