“Enjoying myself on stage felt like a major breakthrough”

“Enjoying myself on stage felt like a major breakthrough”

Observant special 2023: Law student Emmy Ackermans won the Regional Song Contest

05-12-2023 · Interview

In 2023, she performed live on radio station 3FM and opened for singer Lex Uiting in front of an audience of five hundred people. Looking back, law student Emmy Ackermans (24) still can’t quite believe it. “I never thought I’d have the courage to do that.” Winning the Regional Song Contest wasn’t just a musical dream come true for Ackermans; it also marked her definitive victory over stage fright.

Until recently, singing was just a hobby for her. “I’d occasionally perform at weddings or open mics, but never in front of more than fifty people. And I always got really nervous.” When Ackermans started taking singing lessons six years ago, even just the idea of singing in front of her teacher terrified her. “I had severe performance anxiety, which often flared up during swimming competitions. I’d completely freeze up and get a migraine. I wanted to overcome my fear of failure.” She thought singing could be an effective remedy “because it makes you feel so exposed. Plus, I already played the keyboard and I wanted to be able to sing at the same time. But fear always held me back.”

The real turning point came this year with the Regional Song Contest, a competition inspired by Eurovision Song Contest and organised by the thirteen regional public broadcasters in the Netherlands. “I signed up in the summer after learning about it through L1, the regional broadcaster in Limburg.”

Last round of drinks

Contestants were required to submit an original song. Ackermans ended up submitting ’t Letste Rundje, written and produced by Kirsten Michel and Didier de Ruyter of Soundwise Musicstudio in Amsterdam. “I already knew Kirsten; my parents had paid for me to take singing lessons from her. She’s a renowned vocal coach. She coached Stefania, who represented Greece at Eurovision 2021. Kirsten encouraged me to enter the contest. I told her what kind of song I wanted to sing, and she took it from there.”

’t Letste Rundje is about the last round of drinks before the pub closes. Should we take this to mean Ackermans has a very active student life? “No, not at all”, she laughs. “For me, the song is really about the feeling of being together with family and friends, the people you love. And about the warm hospitality that Limburg is known for.” Ackermans, who is from Maastricht, and songwriter Jo Deusings even added a few sentences in the local dialect to the refrain. “It wasn’t a requirement for the contest, but I thought it would be a nice way to pay homage to the province I was representing. The lyrics pretty much wrote themselves; it took us just two minutes to get them down on paper. The rest of the song is in Dutch, so people across the country can understand what it’s about and sing along.”

Singing in the bathroom

Last September, she was chosen from eleven regional submissions to compete in the national final. “Things moved swiftly after that. I spent a lot of time rehearsing, preparing for the live TV performance and promoting my song in local and regional media, all while studying for my degree. As luck would have it, we were focusing on criminal law at the time, which I find very interesting. It kept me motivated. I got an 8/10 on the exam, so apparently I managed to put enough work into it.”

A personal highlight for her was when local singer Lex Uiting invited her to be his opening act at Nieuwe Nor, a concert hall in Heerlen. There she was, performing in front of hundreds of people. “I was forced to muster up the courage, as I couldn’t just walk away. It was an invaluable learning experience. Backstage, Lex and his band were so relaxed.” She also received a valuable piece of advice: “Lex told me, ‘When you’re at home, sing like you’re performing in front of a huge audience. When you’re performing in front of a huge audience, imagine yourself at home, singing in the bathroom.”

Breakthrough

It helped her to be less nervous during the final, where she performed in front of six hundred people at Stadsschouwburg Utrecht and hundreds of thousands watching live on television. “I was still a bit nervous, of course, but I genuinely enjoyed myself on stage. It just goes to show how much progress I made this year. It really felt like a personal breakthrough for me.”

And the audience clearly enjoyed her performance, too – Ackermans won the contest. “It was a dream come true.” Since then, requests for performances have been pouring in, from radio station 3FM to Carnaval celebrations and Christmas parties at UM and the municipality. For now, she’ll have to stick to covers. “I only have one original song, but I’d like to write more.”

The day after the contest, she received a phone call from Limburg’s governor Emile Roemer. He assured her that this moment marked a “career switch” for her, but Ackermans herself is not so certain about that. “I love making music, but my studies are also very interesting. I’d like to start my master’s next year, probably in criminal law. Besides, having a successful career as a singer – or a successful career in law, for that matter – depends on so many things. I’ll combine the two for as long as I can.”

2023: A year like no other

Not too long now, and 2023 will have come to an end. Everyone will have experienced special moments, but for some employees and students at UM, this was a very special year. Observant asked six of them about their highs and lows: student singer Emmy Ackermans, professor Piet Eichholtz, Turkish refugee/researcher Murat, tax specialist/lecturer and writer Frank Nellen, student Lucía Orozco Arbolí, and emeritus professor Nanne de Vries.

Photo: Ellen Oosterhof

Categories: news_top, People
Tags: special2023eng,emmy ackermans,regional,regio sonfestival,criminal law,stage fright,singing,students,instagram

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