Best of the Best — Junior

Keira Celiz, the junior winner of GEMS Education’s Best of the Best singing competition, discusses her song choice, her love of music and handling stage fright.

On 9 December 2018, 30 nervous students stepped onto the stage with the hopes of being named Best of the Best. Having been narrowed down from 247 contestants a month prior, the group of singers was split into juniors and seniors, with 15 students competing in each category.

Grade 7F GEMS Founders School (GFS) student, Keira Celiz decided to sing Nina Simone’s ‘Feeling Good.’ Keira, 11, explains her bold choice: “I love that song. It’s quite jazzy and I’m quite a jazzy person. My mum watched a girl called Carly Rose Sonenclar (the runner-up of 2012’s edition of the American version of The X Factor) and she sang ‘Feeling Good’ in a slightly different way. The judges were amazed by her, and my mum said: ‘Oh, you’ve got to do this!’”

Keira started rehearsing the song in the same style three years ago and first sang it in the GFS Got Talent competition. When she couldn’t decide what to sing at her Best of the Best audition, she decided to stay with what worked.

Keira adds that she did not expect to win and was shocked when she did as she has had no formal vocal training. She also knew she was competing against students who had had lessons. Being the eighth performer and watching the previous students sing helped alleviate her nerves. Keira handles stage fright by focusing on one spot while she sings. “It’s like my own personal space,” she says.

Despite her love of singing, it is not something she intends to pursue professionally, preferring a career as a dentist, but she would like to take lessons only to enjoy her hobby more. She says: “To me singing is beautiful, but your voice always changes. When you grow old what if your voice becomes something else and people don’t like it anymore?”

However, music remains a firm fixture in her life. About two years ago she started learning the guitar with the help of her father and a few months after that she started to learn to play the ukulele as well. She finds composition slightly more challenging on the guitar and ukulele.

She really wants to pursue the piano, beyond the lessons she takes at school. She loves writing her own songs, and she says that it’s easier to do on the piano.

Looking ahead to the next Best of the Best competition, Keira has some solid advice for other students who are thinking about entering: “Don’t be anxious, just enjoy the show, and don’t let a bunch of worries fill your head. Just let them all go before you sing.”