When Micaela Board is on stage — whether acting, singing or both — she said she tries her best to avoid looking at her mother, Shawn, in the audience.
Shawn, Micaela noted, often has a nervous look on her face and appears as if she isn’t breathing.
“That’s because I’m probably not,” Shawn said with a laugh.
Regardless, the mother — who is described by her daughter as both the greatest “momager” and her “No. 1 fan” — had plenty reason recently to let out a large sigh of relief.
Micaela, a 19-year-old Lompoc resident, was selected this month as one of 12 finalists in the “Star Voice” singing competition put on by Joseph Lambert Productions and the Chumash Casino Resort. More than 100 singers from throughout Santa Barbara, Ventura and San Luis Obispo counties auditioned for the "American Idol"-style competition that will wrap up Oct. 18 at 7 p.m. in the Chumash Casino’s Samala Showroom.
Micaela, who is the lone finalist from Lompoc, is no stranger to the stage.
“Singing has always been my first love,” she said. “It’s just what I love to do.”
Micaela, who is in her second year of classes at Hancock College, started singing as soon as she started talking. For her first public performance, she sang “Happy Birthday” to Jesus during a Christmas play at her church when she was just 3 years old. When she was 6, her dad, Roderick, was stationed at Vandenberg Air Force Base, so she moved with her family to the Lompoc area.
As she went through the Lompoc school system, Micaela performed in several talent shows and church plays. At Cabrillo High School, from which she graduated in 2013, she became heavily involved with the choir and theater programs. In fact, for her senior project, she logged more than 250 volunteer hours — six times the required 40 hours — with the Lompoc Youth Theater.
She said that being on stage has just always felt natural to her.
“There’s a pressure associated with performing and stage fright, but I feel like I do well under that pressure because it’s what I do and what I love,” she said. “I’m totally used to going up there and putting myself out there in that way — as long as it involves singing. There are other aspects of my life I wouldn’t want to just be out there, but I know if I’m there to sing, I can do it. I just feel at home.”
After graduating high school, Micaela wrote a lot of original material and started recording some of it with guitarist Adam Fuechsl, a former music teacher at Lompoc Valley Middle School who also directed the jazz band at Cabrillo High School before recently relocating to the Chicago area.
The young singer used a lot of that material for an EP that she recorded with the help of local producer Rex Lee. In the meantime, she also performed wherever she could, hitting a lot of local spots, including wine tasting rooms, in the Lompoc area.
It was her mother who saw a commercial for the “Star Voice” competition and suggested to Micaela that it might be worth a shot.
“At first I thought, ‘I don’t have the time for that,’” Micaela said, noting her busy schedule with school and her job as a Starbucks barista. “But at the same time, it was one of those things where it was like, ‘This is my first love. Why would I pass up the opportunity to do something I really like doing?’”
For her initial audition, she said she was more anxious than nervous, but acknowledged that it was an all-new experience having to perform for a set of judges. She said she felt like the audition went well, but it wasn’t until the judges commented on enjoying her “spirit” that she started to believe she would be selected.
So far, she hasn’t heard any of her 11 competitors sing, but she did meet them and said they were “wonderful people.”
The singers are all vying for a grand prize that includes $5,000, a recording session in a world-class studio and the chance to perform as an opener for an upcoming featured act at the Chumash Casino.
While Micaela acknowledged that the money and studio time would be great, she said it’s that latter prize that she would really like to grab.
“My biggest interest is definitely exposure,” she said. “I just want to sing more. So getting to perform as an opening act would be great. That alone could be my prize and I’d be happy.”
For the competition’s finale on Oct. 18, audience members, by voting with their phones, will account for 75 percent of the final score that determines whether a singer moves on to the final four in the second half of the show. A panel of judges accounts for the other 25 percent.
It’s because of that emphasis on audience participation that Micaela is posting fliers around town and trying to drum up as much support as possible in Lompoc, a city that she considers her hometown. Tickets for the show, which range from $15 to $35, can be purchased at the casino or at www.chumashcasino.com.
“Lompoc definitely claimed me,” she said, noting that she was always prepared to move due to her father’s military career, but was happy when her family decided to stay in the area after her dad’s retirement in 2008.
Micaela said her taste in music is wide-ranging. She listens to pretty much everything and said there isn’t any genre in which she can’t find something she likes. As far as singers who inspire her, she listed Ariana Grande, JoJo and Birdy, all of whom found worldwide success before adulthood.
“I would say I was blessed with talent, and I’m working for skill,” Micaela said. “I think I was given some sort of natural ability, but I’m not going to sit and say that’s enough. I want to hone my skills and become the best singer I can possibly become. Wherever that ends up, we’ll see.”
No matter what, she said she can always count on the support of her family. She has two older siblings who are both very musical, and both of her parents enjoy singing. Roderick, her father, often sings during functions at VAFB and has been Micaela’s vocal coach for most of her life, she said.
“I think growing up in a musical family helped, but I truly think it’s a huge part of who I am,” Micaela said of performing. “I don’t know why I love singing so much.”
Her mother has a possible answer.
“I think it’s in her DNA,” Shawn said.