Jill Beram-Liimatta, a local singer and elementary music teacher in Pasadena, didn’t expect she would ever try out for “America’s Got Talent,” a show far from her soprano-operatic musical style and one she believes is based on “shock value.”
Still, she was in the car listening to the pop radio station 106.5 when it announced the “fastpass” for “America’s Got Talent” auditions in New York on November 2 and 3. If she passed this radio “screening,” she would be able to skip the long lines at the auditions.
“I had no idea what they were talking about; I just thought they were doing their own version of ‘America’s Got Talent’ and I thought it would be fun to do it,” she said. “So I called and got through — and had no idea what I was doing or doing it for — and when I sang, they said, ‘Congratulations, you just scored a front-row pass to New York.’”
For the radio contest, Beram-Liimatta sang “I Wish It So.” Once she got to New York, her audience was different. She performed for one “America’s Got Talent” panelist, but both sides of the room were packed with other contestants.
Beram-Liimatta, who has a husband and two kids, a bachelor’s degree in music from Towson and a master’s degree in education from another university in Pennsylvania, as well as several side jobs teaching music outside of Sunset Elementary, just went with the flow and sang Claude Debussy’s “Nuit D'étoiles,” forgetting all her momentary worries in the harmony of music.
It was no wonder she passed, because when she sings, and especially beautiful songs like that, her voice is simply “amazing” said Dayle Obrecht, a retail sales associate at Music & Arts in Severna Park, where Beram-Liimatta also teaches voice and piano to children.
“She has an amazing voice; I can’t say that enough,” Obrecht said. Beram-Liimatta is still waiting for an email to be sent by early February to announce whether she will move to the next round, but Obrecht said “her chances are right up there — right up there to the standard of those who are on TV.”
Beram-Liimatta is not expecting a callback, because “there’s an element of shock value” to whom producers actually select to go on the show, and it’s all about variety.
Still, she’s happy she tried out, because this is a lesson she can teach her kids — who “went nuts” when they heard about the audition — whether she advances to the next round or not.
“It’s a really big teaching moment for them,” she said. “A student will get wrapped up in one audition or one role. And I think it’s great to have those goals, but I have to constantly remind them that if you don’t get that role that you want, there are others out there.”
It’s the teaching qualities like these that make Beram-Liimatta a unique and integral part of the team at Stage & Screen Studios in Severna Park, a company that puts on musical plays with children. There, Beram-Liimatta orchestrates the entire musical direction of the plays, teaching students to “discover themselves in their roles,” said Pete Garvey, the director at Stage & Screen.
“Her mastery of music is really astounding,” he said. “It’s amazing, and again her command of that is evident in how she leads these rehearsals and guides these kids. She’s able to convey her knowledge to them and in such a way that they are able to absorb it.”
Obrecht and Garvey agree on one thing: Beram-Liimatta has such a profound impact on her music students that she’s already paved herself a legacy, and should already feel proud of what she has done.
“If she doesn’t feel that way, she should,” Obrecht said. “She’s an amazing performer, mother, friend — she has all the bases covered.”
It turns out, she does feel that way. Beram-Liimatta said she is already “living her dream” every day, when she goes to school or any of her numerous side jobs to teach children music, voice and piano. It's something she is ferociously passionate about, especially when passing her knowledge on to younger children who may feel just as passionate.
"Teaching music is my dream," she said. "Let's leave it at that."
When the radio station announced she was going to New York, Beram-Liimatta figured she would audition to have a fun experience. Her principal, Toni Carr, whom Beram-Liimatta described as her “No. 1 cheerleader,” went with her for encouragement and support.
She was confident while she waited in line, but mostly amused at some of the auditions. She saw one man, “not dressed for audition-appropriate wear” who screamed and ranted about Simon Cowell, one of the judges of “America’s Got Talent” who became famous for his ruthless judging and personality.
“That was his audition,” she quipped.
She sang, went home, and hasn’t really thought about it since. She admits that, if the opportunity presented itself, she would probably try out again. But it’s not something she would seek out, and it’s not something that would ever slide Beram-Liimatta her dream on a silver platter, because teaching music to children has already filled that spot.