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Local student makes top 16 in international singing competition

Vanessa Sears | Vanessa Sears
Vanessa Sears | Vanessa Sears

Local Sheridan student Vanessa Sears recently found success as the Canadian finalist in the Voice of McDonald’s singing competition, eventually making her way to the top 16 in the international contest.

The competition, held by the McDonald’s restaurant chain, gives employees the opportunity to show off their vocal skills in a bi-annual competition with fellow employees from across the globe.

Sears, a third-year student in Sheridan’s musical theatre program, was encouraged to sign up for Voice of McDonald’s by one her managers after a performance at her other part-time job at Canada’s Wonderland.

“I saw one of the posters and didn’t really pay it any mind,” said Sears of the VOM competition. “Then one of my managers came to see one of my shows at Wonderland. She said ‘Hey, I’ve heard you sing. You should try out for this and audition for it.”

“It was very scary. I was very nervous at every stage of the competition,” said Sears with a laugh.

Sears said she shied away from the idea at first but eventually gave it a shot.

She was voted in after submitting a video of herself singing the song Lean on Me then went on to win the Canadian finals with her cover of This Will Be by Natalie Cole. From there she advanced to the McDonald’s Global Conference in Orlando, Florida where she performed Proud Mary by Tina Turner in front of a 15,000-person crowd.

“It was very scary. I was very nervous at every stage of the competition,” said Sears with a laugh. “I was like shaking and freaking out.

“I think part of the reason why it was so scary and nerve racking was that everyone else there had sort of done that before. If they hadn’t competed they had at least done performances for really big crowds and I think my biggest crowd at that point was like 400 people. So going from that to thousands was like oh my god!

Having less experience did little to slow her down though, as her talents made her the national contender representing Canada against 63 other countries and eventually making her one of 16 semi-finalists.

The competition isn’t the only time McDonald’s has had an impact on Sears. As a child she fell ill to a flesh eating disease and had to leave her hometown of Deep River to seek treatment. The Ronald McDonald House charity helped her family be with her during the hard time.

“I was really sick when I was around eight years old and because we’re from a small town, the hospital that I got flown to was in Ottawa. So I got airlifted there and I was really far from my family. I was really little so my mom and dad stayed at Ronald McDonald house and when my siblings came to see me they got to stay there also.”

With regards to her future Sears said she’s thought about a career in studio recording and enjoys the idea but her real passion is in theatre. After she graduates she would like to use her skills touring with a musical theatre company.

“I think if I could travel while doing musical theatre that would be the goal for right after I graduate. But in the long run I would definitely like to end up on Broadway one day (laughs). That would be the dream.”