Local talent hits high note in contest

Mack hopes to shine in `Star Search' finals, live on CBS May 14

April 30, 2003|By Anna Kaplan | Anna Kaplan,SUN STAFF

Baltimoreans know they don't have to go far to find talent in this city, but it's always pleasing to see the world at large recognize Charm City's jewels. Now, CBS' Star Search is finding new talent where we always knew it existed. The show's May 14 finals will feature Baltimore's Lisa Mack in the adult singer category.

The 34-year-old Charles Village resident won the preliminary competition on April 4 with Patti LaBelle's "Lady Marmalade" and the semifinals on April 11 with "Believe in Yourself" from The Wiz. Her voice is deep and resonant while her shock of orange hair sets the stage ablaze. For her performances, she wears evening gowns and flowers in her hair.

Mack has been singing since the age of 4, performing with choruses and choirs throughout her childhood and adolescence, but was too self-conscious about performing alone before she enrolled at Bowie State University as a theater major and took voice lessons.

"I never had the confidence to be a soloist before college," said Mack, who lists LaBelle, Aretha Franklin and Chaka Khan among her favorite singers.

Music has been a part of her life for a long time. Since 1998, she has been a member of the Octonauts, a Baltimore-based funk band whose self-released album came out last April. Meanwhile, Mack works as a training coordinator at Campaign Consultation Inc., a Charles Village consulting company that organizes campaigns on social issues.

She has also been active in theater, touring the United States twice with a New York-based company, Theater Works USA, playing the part of abolitionist Harriet Tubman's mother in the musical Freedom Train.

The decision to audition for Star Search came unexpectedly. She was watching the show and noticed that an open audition would be held in Philadelphia at the beginning of last month. After standing in a long line in the cold, she auditioned, was called back, auditioned again, then went to California to appear on the show.

"I didn't even think there was a chance, but then I got called back," Mack said.

A month and a half later - after scoring higher than Matt Alber of San Francisco in the preliminary and ahead of Layla DaVias of Brooklyn, N.Y., and Vicci Martinez of Tacoma, Wash., in the semi-final - Mack was a finalist awaiting her chance to win $100,000 and a Sony recording contract. "Music is a love for me," she said. "I'd love for it to be my job, but it's first a love for me."

Music, however, is not her only love. Mack is engaged to a Jamaican, whom she met while vacationing on the Caribbean island February 2001. Since then, she's gone to the island twice a year. He proposed this winter, and they are planning a July wedding there.

Ideally, she would like to continue living in Maryland and have a second home in Jamaica.

On May 14, Mack will face Vickie Natale and one other finalist, still be to chosen, in the adult singer category on Star Search. (There are also competitions for young singer, comedian and young dancer.) Scoring is done by a panel of judges, including Ben Stein, Naomi Judd and Ahmet Zappa, and the viewers.

No matter what happens on Star Search, Lisa Mack says she will continue with her musical career.

"I plan to always be involved somehow in music," she said.

She is currently working on a solo album that she plans to release by herself if Sony or another label doesn't sign her. Some of her music is available online at www.lisamackmusic.com.

Star Search airs at 8 p.m. Wednesdays and Fridays on CBS. During the show, viewers may vote at www.cbs.com/star.

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