Opera singer turned provincial karaoke champ to compete for national title

Calgarian Jackie Gibney began singing in karaoke competitions in 2007, and won the provincial qualifier at the Karaoke World Championships three weeks ago with show tunes from musicals such as Wicked and the Bridges of Madison County.

Jackey Gibney conquered nerves to qualify for Canadian National Karaoke Finals

Jackey Gibney, 38, says she used to get so nervous about performing that she couldn't place. Last weekend, she won the provincial qualifier for the Karaoke World Championships. (Submitted by Jackey Gibney)

The Canadian National Karaoke Finals are to be held this weekend — virtually, due to COVID-19 — and Alberta's reigning provincial champion will be battling it out for the title.

Calgarian Jackey Gibney, 38, first started singing opera. Then she moved on to musical theatre, and eventually karaoke.

She started entering karaoke competitions in 2007, and won the provincial qualifier at the Karaoke World Championships last month with renditions of show tunes from musicals such as Wicked and The Bridges of Madison County.

On Saturday and Sunday, she will perform at the nationals, hoping to qualify for the world championship, where there will be competitors from up to 40 countries across the globe.

"I've always loved going to karaoke, I just never thought of competing until some of my friends coerced me into doing it years ago," Gibney told the Calgary Eyeopener on Friday.

But to get to this point, Gibney had an obstacle to overcome.

Stage fright and vacuum cleaners

"I used to be so nervous that I couldn't even make, like, the provincial level at one point," Gibney said. 

"I couldn't even place, because I would — my nerves would consume me and I would go way off-key. And it was — it was bad."

To tackle those nerves, Gibney began training with a singing coach who has a PhD in advanced vocal production.

As she started to hone her skills, and the nerves were harnessed, Gibney's consistent hard work paid off.

"[Now] there's no stopping [me], even though it took me this long to be able to place first in provincials. I just kept going and kept training and improving."

Gibney keeps up the training consistently, often singing as she cleans houses for a living with a vacuum strapped to her back — which she said became an unlikely asset. 

"With [the vacuum] on my back, and straps around my diaphragm, it trains me to use my breath support better. And so when you take it off, everything becomes easier," Gibney said.

"And that's how I got this insane breath support."

Engage and emote

According to Gibney, the upcoming competition will be scored by a rubric that, when followed, leads to a high score.

The categories include vocals, technique, stage presence and artistry, which are broken down further into subcategories such as mastery of voice, breathing, expressiveness and charisma. 

And contestants are encouraged to dress the part — Gibney likes to wear costumes to help her get into the spirit of the competition, and the song.

"[The judges] love it if you can connect with the song, and really tell the story. It's not all about having the best vocals. You can have the best vocals in the competition and not win at all," Gibney said.

"Usually [it is] the people that can perform, and really engage in the song, and emote to the lyrics that end up winning these things."

But that doesn't mean vocals don't matter. 

The competition will host some of the best singers in Canada, Gibney said, and even though they don't necessarily sing for a living, many sound like they could.

"They're almost professional, to a point," Gibney said. "Some of these singers are winners from other competitions, and they're incredible."

Watch parties for the Canadian National Karaoke Finals will be held Saturday and Sunday at the Deerfoot Inn & Casino.

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener.


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