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By Ellie Papadakis
Elk Grove
and Emma Seslowsky
Lincoln Park
It’s safe to say that Irene Dreayer has an awesome job. She discovered Dylan and Cole Sprouse and Tia and Tamera Mowry. As a talent coach and executive producer, Dreayer has worked with stars such as the Jonas Brothers, Selena Gomez, Miley Cyrus and Zac Efron.

Dreayer recently published her own book, “Mom! I Want to Be A Star,” in which she offers her show business expertise to teens who wish to follow their Hollywood dreams. There’s a reason she includes the word “mom” in her book title. Dreayer makes sure parents are involved in every step of stardom.

“When people say to me, ‘Why is it that all the kids you discover‚ all the kids that you manage and the kids that you produce‚ why is it that none of these kids, after their shows are over, are … messed up?’ ” Dreayer said. “They’re together, they’re educated, they have families and I go, ‘That’s easy, I train the parents.’ ”

But there’s another secret to her success. Dreayer said she’s never afraid to tell the truth. She explains that by being honest with Hollywood hopefuls, she sets them up for longer careers. In a world where ordinary people can rise to fame one day and fall off the next, Dreayer stresses the importance of being able to recognize your potential and show it to others—no matter where you are in your career.

“I’ve been doing this for a long time,” she said. “I have said to kids, ‘It’s easy to get in the door, but it’s really hard to get back in the door.’ ”

Her “Dray Way” virtual program involves Skyping with teens all over the world and giving them advice on how to better their talents while also seeing if they’ll be able to handle Hollywood.

That got us thinking—what would Dray say to Chicago’s talent? We sent her six YouTube videos of aspiring artists who all hail from Chicago. She watched each video and handed over her notes.

Alex Rosales
Junior, Lincoln Park
Cover of “First Day of My Life” by Bright Eyes
Dray says: Alex has a unique voice! Some artists do a cover and try to imitate the original artist. In Alex’s case, she made it her own.
If you sing while playing an instrument, it should enhance your performance, not distract. Alex plays guitar very well, but spent too much time looking down at the guitar.
Alex is a very attractive young girl, but the lighting was too dark and her hair covered most of her face. Make sure the emotion of the song is reflected in your facial expressions as well as the passion in your voice.
Watch Alex’s video:

 

Sloane Skylar
Junior, Francis Parker
Cover of “The A Team” by Ed Sheeran
Dray says: Sloane Skylar, an attractive young girl, covered ‘The A Team’ with a pure, sweet-sounding voice, and both her singing and guitar playing were excellent. She didn’t look down at the guitar and (it) was not in view, thus I was more focused on her.
Sloane’s version of the song sounded very similar to Ed Sheeran’s style. If you choose to do a cover of a song, it is wise to make it more of your own. Also, I suggest Sloane put more passion into her voice and facial expressions in order to give her version more of an emotional connection with her audience.
Watch Sloane’s video:

 

Jami Singer
Freshman, University of Illinois
Cover of “Everything Has Changed” by Taylor Swift
Dray says: Jami Singer is a beautiful girl with a lovely voice as well as excellent guitar skills.
She began the video by making several excuses. This is considered unprofessional.
It was hard to hear her over her guitar. The second half was much better. I would advise Jami to make sure her beautiful voice is audible.
Jami sang most of the song looking down as if she were reading the lyrics or music. It is important to make a connection with your audience and engage them throughout your performance.
Watch Jami’s video:

 

Walker Shadle
Sophomore, Lincoln Park
Chopin “Octaves” Etude
Dray says: Walker Shadle is an amazing classical pianist with talent beyond his years. He plays with great intensity and is extremely focused, two characteristics of a successful musician. He will definitely have a future playing in the classical music world.
If Walker aspires to extend his talent beyond the classical world, I would advise him to diversify his music but still stay true to his classical background. Take a non-classical piece and make it his own by putting a classical spin on it. This is a way for Walker to connect with a broader audience, show his personality and be unique!
Watch Walker’s video:

 

Taylor Bennett
Junior, Ogden
“Goldie”
Dray says: Taylor Bennett, you are amazing! I am a big fan of rap having worked with many well-known artists such as Chris Brown, Kid ‘n Play and LL Cool J. Taylor reminds me of an early Eminem, one of the best storytellers around. Speed, passion, emotion—words I would use in describing Taylor’s talent.
I would love to see Taylor add lyrics when posting his videos. By doing so, it would help the audience connect with his message even more. I feel he has a lot to say and I believe this kid has a future in the world of rap music. Jay-Z, take a look at this kid!
Watch Taylor’s video:

 

Jessica Pagan and Clariza Campuzano
Senior and junior, Lincoln Park
Ukulele cover of “Sea of Love” by Phillip Phillips
Dray says: Very cute girls with lovely voices. I have to be truthful as that is what I am about—they looked completely bored while singing with zero personality.
As a result, Zzzzzzzzz on my part as the audience. You at least need to appear as if you are having fun and show some emotion or you will have an audience of folks dozing off.
Watch Jessica and Clariza’s video:


Want to learn more about Irene Dreayer?
Check her out at thedrayway.com or on Facebook at facebook.com/thedrayway.

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About The Mash

The Mash is the Chicago Tribune's newspaper and website written for teens, by teens. The paper is distributed for free each Thursday at Chicago-area high schools and is written largely by high school students.

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