Warren Zentz sings. His sister sings and his twin brother, Carroll, plays guitar. “Dad sings with a choir,” he adds. “My mom? Oh my gosh. You do not want her to carry a tune; it’s horrendous.”
Zentz tells it like it is a quality that will serve him well as he pursues a career in public relations. And, he’s as fearless with his singing as he is with his words.
“I’ve always wanted to touch people with my music. I love music. I don’t want to be a recording artist; I don’t think I’m good enough to do that. I don’t think I have the right look or anything. I don’t think my voice is ready for it, but who knows?”
This unflinching confidence enabled the University of Maryland student to audition for TV’s “American Idol.”
“I got into the top 200 out of 20,000 competitors in New York. I did it as a road trip with my brother and my two best friends.” Zentz shrugs. “My two best friends were going to audition, but they chickened out at the last minute.
“My brother auditioned. He had to sing the Spice Girls’ ‘Wannabe,’ and he’s a big guy. He’s built, he’s 6-2. We look nothing alike. Everyone was cracking up.
“One of my mentors and speaking coaches, Mike Boyd, always told me everyone comes prepared to win, but nobody comes prepared to lose. I think about that all the time, because everyone comes to these competitions thinking they’re going to win. You have to be prepared to lose, too.”
“The first round, they told me I was the best person they had heard all day, and I was like, ‘Wow, that’s a big accomplishment.’ Then the next time, the response was universally, ‘You should stop singing.’ There was something about me they just didn’t like.”
Still, many others are impressed. Zentz’s singing venues include his university’s Comcast Center in College Park, Md., where he has performed the national anthem before men’s basketball games. In 2007, Zentz sang to a crowd of 15,000 at the opening ceremony of SkillsUSA’s national conference.
Zentz’s involvement in SkillsUSA goes back to high school. At Frederick County Career and Technical Center in Frederick, Md., he was a local and state officer and was also elected to a national position with the Future Business Leaders of America.
In addition to singing at the SkillsUSA conference, he served as a public relations intern and came back on stage to receive the national postsecondary gold medal in Customer Service. Majoring in English and public relations, the college junior wants to work for a nonprofit, hopefully a career and technical student organization.
“Because of these student organizations, I was able to stand up there [at ‘American Idol’] and have poise,” he explains. “I just said ‘thank you,’ and I walked out. When I walked out of the room, I just started laughing. What are you supposed to do about that? You can’t win everything.
“You have to be prepared to lose, too. Just like nationals with SkillsUSA, ‘American Idol’ is the best of the best.
For me, doing ‘American Idol,’ that’s the best of the best. I wasn’t expecting anything; I was prepared to lose,” Zentz admits. “To be honest, getting in the top 200 wasn’t losing at all.”
In fact, it was better than the first year he tried out. “Auditions were held in Washington, D.C. I was 16. They said I was too young, too fat, too nasal and I didn’t look like a singer.
“They pick the song that you sing for your audition,” he reveals. “Whether you know it or not, you have to sing it. They gave me Lionel Richie’s ‘All Night Long.’ Everybody knows the chorus, but who knows the lyrics? I had to learn the verse, and I called my dad and he was trying to sing it over the phone. It was just a mess. … I got the song at 8 a.m., and I had until 5:30 p.m. to learn it.”
Zentz auditioned in Charleston, S.C., for the current season, where he again saw the fickle nature of show business.
“I didn’t make the finals. As we were waiting for the auditions, one of the staff members from ‘Idol’ said that this year, they were looking for brunets,” the fair-haired singer says. “And, as I watched, it seemed that there was definitely a pattern in those who went on for the second round. However, it was a great experience, and I met lots of terrific people.”
Another high note in a promising career.
SkillsUSA Champions | Summer 2008 | Volume 42, No. 4