By ALAN SMASON, Exclusive to the CCJN
The third time is apparently the charm for local singer, teacher and musician Meryl Zimmerman as she will be competing as one seven finalists for the title of 2017 Stage Door Idol at the National World War II Museum.
Zimmerman, an attractive brunette who hails from Long Island, sings regularly at the Mahogany Jazz Hall in the French Quarter on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and came to New Orleans several years ago after completing her studies in jazz at the Manhattan School of Music and Washington State University in St Louis. Currently, she is a teacher at the Jewish Community Center and also teaches at Lafargue Pianos. She also helps to lead Tot Shabbat services at Shir Chadash Conservative Congregation, where she formerly worked as part of its religious school faculty.
While she was working at Shir Chadash several years ago, she competed in two previous Stage Door Idol competitions in back-to-back years. While her performances got her raves from the panel of judges, she did not receive the votes necessary to advance to the finals.
The daughter of CCJN Jewish Trivia contributor and New Orleans native Mark Zimmerman, Meryl was one of 40 contestants this year who auditioned for the museum’s entertainment director Victoria Reed at in early July and then navigated through four rounds of competition. Three rotating celebrity judges voted each week along with one collective vote from audience members during the preliminary competitions held four consecutive Tuesday evenings from July 11 to August 1.
On two occasions – the first week and the last week – two of the three judges voted together, while one judge voted the same as the audience’s vote tally. That resulted in two ties. Zimmerman’s August 1 performance of a Yiddish song made famous by the Andrews Sisters -“Bei Meir Bist Du Schoen – at BB’s Stage Door Canteen netted her a tie with another female vocalist assuring her of an appearance at the finals being held this Tuesday, August 15 at 6:00 p.m.
“I’m in a different place in my music career than I was in the last two times I auditioned,” Zimmerman told the CCJN in a phone interview. “I’ve been much busier. I’ve been gigging more and performing three or four times a week, so instead of looking at it like ‘This is my one big opportunity to bust out and introduce myself as a singer in New Orleans,’ I feel like I’m already established as a singer at this point.” She finished a stand at Buffa’s on Esplande Avenue on the edge of the Vieux Carré last week and is back on their schedule to reappear in October, she said. She also has performed at Nosh on several occasions.
Zimmerman’s position to appear was tenth on the card and so she was backstage for the entire competition and did not have a chance to hear any of the others with whom she competed. “I’d never been the last one, but I had been the last one before the intermission before,” she continued. “I think it is a nice place to be because you’re more fresh in the judges’ minds.”
She said she prepared more for this year by being more relaxed and having lower expectations as well as being mindful of how she held her hands, how she moved and her placement on the stage. “Now that I’ve done this contest before and I’ve seen I’ve seen the types of performances that tend to win, I know that that’s a very big part of the whole package,” the jazz singer confided.
Zimmerman called on her sister in New York, who is an actress there, to get feedback from her on different movements and poses she should strike. “That was very hopeful,” she admitted.
The final four judges for the August 15 final will be Leah Chase, Lena Prima, Delfeayo Marsalis and radio personality Scoot from WWL-AM. Audience members will not be afforded a vote for the finals, but Zimmerman, who specializes in jazz stylings, said she was pleased by the number of jazz enthusiasts on the panel as judges for the finals. The cost for the competition is $10.00 per person. Drinks and a limited menu will be available that night.
Previously, all competitors performed with accompaniment by pianist Harry Mayronne. For the finals they will all sing with special arrangements written for them and perform with the museum’s Victory Six Swing Band.
Should Zimmerman win the competition and emerge as the 2017 Stage Door Idol, she would be the first Jewish performer to receive that honor. “I’ll do my best,” she concluded.