AGT Part 1: America’s Got Talent – First Hand

There’s no way I can fit this into a single blog, so I’ll try to write as many as I can  in the next few days.  First of all …

Yes, it’s true I was on “America’s Got Talent.”  Yes it’s true I was buzzed after about 10 seconds.  And no, I wasn’t trying to lose.

Last March I was invited to go to Seattle to compete on America’s Got Talent.  My first reaction was: “You’ve got to be kidding! No way!”

But then I started re-thinking …

3 Contestants in my game-show musical - Bela (Emily Rostykus), Gabriel (Janelle Nadeau) & Eden (Meg Mann).

I’ve been working on a musical called “In the Wings  (or What the Hell are you doing in the Waiting Room for Heaven??)” It’s about the ultimate game-show: auditions to get into Heaven.  I realized I couldn’t pass up the chance to actually experience a talent show like this first-hand, to meet competitors, to see what it’s really like.  Ego be damned – this was a chance to be in the belly of the beast.  The beast I’m writing a show about!

There were other mitigating factors, like it meant I got to go out to the Seattle area three weeks before my show with the Tacoma Symphony, so I could rehearse with the “HarpBreakers” and do some in-person PR — all of which helped sell out my March 27th show.

But actually competing on “America’s Got Talent” was priceless in terms of first-hand experience – learning about the personalities backstage, what people did to prepare, how people responded to rejection, how some people were so deeply sincere and authentic and others were trying to ‘game’ the experience; the many hours of interviews, the second-guessing about repertoire, the people who really hit their mark, and how some utterly and authentically made the audience fall in love with them – and were still rejected.  There’s no way I could possible get this kind of visceral experience except by being there.

And then there was my own personal journey … but all that is to come.  This was a rich and deep and truly iconic experience.  The rejection?  That was good too — deeply good.  But I’ll write about all that in the next few days now that I finally can.

To listen to a song from the musical, click the play button below.

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This song happens at the point of the musical when casting coach, Aubrey, begins to realize she’s spent her life coaching others to win, while she, herself, is still watching from the wings.

And to read the next blog in this series click here.

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12 Responses to AGT Part 1: America’s Got Talent – First Hand

  1. Dave Ziffer says:

    So take heart Deborah … my guess is that Mozart, Chick Corea, and most instrumental Windham Hill artists would also be buzzed. AGT is looking for the next Lady Gaga, not the likes of you.

    • HipHarp says:

      Thanks, Dave. Well, I really admire Lady Gaga, but you’re right, I’m not her. And the whole experience was so rich that it’s hard to feel bad about being buzzed. I mean, the possibility of rejection just comes along with it. But actually experiencing it firsthand is so worthwhile. And the people I met – some of the other contestants — I fell in love with their commitment and how much they put themselves into their music or skills or whatever they were showcasing. There are many people competing on that show who pour their hearts and souls out, and getting to know them backstage was a moving experience. So … if you have the chance, I’d encourage anyone to do it themselves!

  2. daharpster says:

    10 seconds?? Really? I’m disappointed. I thought that after AGT promoted that wonderful ventriloquist a few years back they were open to all kinds of talent. That makes me wonder about the judges’ ability to consistently identify superstar potential.

    • HipHarp says:

      Thanks … I’ll tell you more about the story in the coming weeks (I’ve been on the road and without internet access), and I think a lot of it will fall into context. Thanks so much for writing. It’s great to hear so many people weighing in on this!

  3. jopema says:

    Deborah, you are far more graceful than I. I shouted “PHILISTINES!” at the TV when all you received were 3 seconds of screen time followed by Howie Mandell saying “Not yet”.

    Thinking about it afterward, however, had you gone forward in the competition I may not have had the opportunity to take my friends to see you perform in South Station last week. I’m torn…I would love for you to see Las Vegas headliner success but I wouldn’t trade seeing you perform the way I can now for anything.

    You are a treasure, regardless of “size” of success.

    • HipHarp says:

      Thanks! I’ll be blogging more about what happened, which was much more than that — and very beautiful in many ways – so stay tuned. I’ve been without internet access for a couple of days or I would have written more by now!

  4. margie says:

    Deborah, you gave one of the best shows I’ve ever seen/heard… with the Hartford Symphony many years ago. We traveled over 5 hours to see you and I would do it again in a heartbeat. You’re terrific and those judges should be ashamed of themselves.
    PLEASE try to come to Reading, PA. We love you!

    • HipHarp says:

      I LOVED playing with Hartford!!! That was one of my favorite concerts! That was where we did “Stress Analysis of a Strapless Evening Gown,” right? And I SOOOO tried to get the conductor to take off her jacket and let us see her backless dress … sigh. And I’m ready to come to Reading any time! Thanks so much for writing!

  5. Rex says:

    Wish I’d known to watch for you. They lost me several seasons ago, and clearly I made the right choice if you’re not the sort of talent they’re moving forward these days!

    Your South Station event was nothing less than amazing, by th way. It may be one of the 10 coolest train stations, but I’d call it THE coolest concert venue!

  6. Ron&Brenda says:

    It was amazing to see you on AGT, if only for a blip of a minute. We had to play it back just to be sure, and yes, we still have it recorded, if you need a filler on your next DVD. LTOS.
    We’ve been following you since just short of forever, and are never disappointed in the reaction of delightful surprise that our unsuspecting friends get when we take them to a concert.
    As for the show, our question is “Yes, America’s Got Talent, but why don’t we have talent judges?” You were up there in front of two Brits and a Canadian. What the – ?
    Is there somewhere that we can see your intro, your whole performance, and the judges comments? That would be interesting. We could not even tell what you were playing, so we could not fathom the reason for the quick Buzz Off..

    • HipHarp says:

      Thanks guys! It was definitely an ‘experience’ (and a half!) My next few blogs talk more about what actually happened out there – and for me it was life-changing …so stay tuned!

  7. Wayne says:


    I’ve been a fan since “Celtic Harpestry” (which I really wish was available on DVD, as I’ve worn out my video tape…), and my jaw hit the floor when I saw your brief appearance on AGT. I think my reaction was something like, “WTH? WTF? Are the judges stoned tonight, or what?” Oh, well. Just reinforces my opinion that, for the most part, I’m not part of the target audience for these shows.

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