By Jeff Zerbst
Strathfield College student, Yoko Taira, has just returned from Las Vegas where she had a “fantastic, unbelievable experience”. It was there, in the world’s favourite playground, that Yoko and the Endeavour Harmony Chorus competed in the Sweet Adelines International Competition and – incredibly – they were judged the 10th best choir in the world!
Singing in a massive auditorium in front of a full house, the all-female choir from Caringbah sang “Ain’t He Sweet” and “Love Letter from Your Heart” in the semi-finals, and were delighted to get through that round to make the final.
A packed theatre of enthusiasts heard the Aussies sing, “Inanay” (an Aboriginal song), “All the Way”, “Don’t Let the Rain Come Down” and “My Island Home” in the final. The group was delighted to finish in 10th place, confirmation that they are right up there amongst the world’s elite.
“We worked really hard to get that result,” Yoko reports. “It was a case of practice, practice and more practice. It all paid off in the end. I will never forget the week we had in Las Vegas. It was completely amazing.”
Yoko is still pinching herself over this extraordinary success. The 32-year-old, who is studying a Diploma in Tourism at SC, hadn’t rated herself a singer in her native Japan. However, after being asked by “a friend of a friend” to come and listen to the Endeavour Harmony Chorus, she decided she wanted to audition.
“They were a really nice group of people and I loved their music,” Yoko explains. “Even though I am usually shy and can’t sing in front of many people, I really wanted to be part of this choir. I took the audition and was surprised to be selected.”
Not only was she selected, but Yoko was promoted to the lead group in the choir. Singing only in English is one of the challenges she has had to overcome. “I have to remember everything in my brain,” she laughs. “I find I am able to do it!”
Back in Japan, Yoko earned a degree in Social Science before embarking on seven years of work in hospitality. She worked at the Intercontinental Hotel in Tokyo and her skills include those of a barista, waitress, bartender and sommelier (wine expert).
Now she has reinvented herself as a vocational student in Sydney and a singer of world-class ability.
“It’s a very, very busy life,” enthuses Yoko. “I am having lots of fun and I really love Australia.”
Although a few of us at Strathfield College have offered to become Yoko’s agent if she turns professional – perhaps winning “The Voice” along the way – she is adamant that her newly discovered talent will be restricted to the choral world.
“As I said, I’m a truly shy person,” repeats Yoko.
Maybe she is, but a talent like hers needs to be heard by one and all. If she changes her mind, please remember this – I spoke to her first!