By Nickie Wang
If listening to the radio is your pasttime, you may have heard of the latest cover version of “Ocean Deep,” a song popularized by Cliff Richard. And most probably, you’re also one of those listeners who wondered whether Leah Salonga has just released a new single, or it’s just another upcoming artist with a voice similar to the Broadway star.
If you have an exceptional hearing sense, then you would consider the latter. But the singer of the song is not just any other upcoming artist; she is a veteran in music if we would go over her credentials. Her name is Michelle, Michelle Nikki Junia in real life. She’s been around using the name Nikki J. and now has decided to use her first name.
“Not for a change but simply just a decision. After all it’s part of my real name, and I’m more comfortable being called Michelle. Besides there are so many Nikkis in the business, including you,” Michelle said, referring to myself.
Michelle has just released an album called Back In Time with “Ocean Deep” as a carrier single. We recently had a chance to hear the singer performing the song live when we were invited to watch the music video directed by filmmaker and screenplay writer Charlotte Dianco. The MV features hunk model Luke Jickain. It is a short film-like MV wherein the visual images fairly interpreted the lyrics.
The album includes Michelle’s rendition of classic standards like “Constantly,” “Teacher’s Pet,” “Secret Love,” “It’s Now Or Never,” medley of “Are You Lonesome Tonight?,” “Love Me Tender,” “Can’t Help But Fall In Love,” and a “Kettle Mata” original composition titled “Lambing.”
“I’ve wanted to release an album, but it’s only now that I feel more into it because I’m emotionally mature to interpret songs that talk about love and heartbreak,” said Michelle, who used to be a member of Ryan Cayabyab-trained vocal band 14K.
Michelle’s passion for music is not concentrated to establishing her name in the mainstream music. She opted to remain low key doing corporate shows and occasional concerts. She has staged sold-out concerts at Teatrino Theater and Bar, and Music Museum in Greenhills this year alone.
“Every singer wants to break into mainstream music, I also want it. If that opportunity comes then I would be very thankful but if not, I will still continue doing what keeps me happy and contented,” the singer, who regards Leah Salonga as her ultimate musical influence, said.
Amid her anonymity among the masses, Michelle has a captive audience that continuously supports her career, or more appropriately her passion. In addition to that, the reluctant star has performed in prestigious venues abroad including the world-renowned Carnegie Hall in New York, and some other concert venues around Asia .
As a cum laude graduate at the University of Sto. Tomas Conservatory of Music, Michelle has the ability to share her talent with aspiring singers. Aside from performing live, she is also passionate in honing young talents who want to learn the proper technique in singing.
“A good singer is not the one who belts every time he or she sings. It’s a matter of knowing your range and singing within it. Some people have this impression that a child who belts and reaches the high notes is the better singer. That’s not the real measure,” Michelle explained.
Michelle started training when she was nine years old, and now as a music guru, she imparts what she has learned by operating a music school called Stardev Music Studio. The school is located in BF Homes, Parañaque.
“I’ve been doing this since I was 15 [years old], and it’s inspiring when I hear my students improving. It’s the rewarding part of honing young talents because they practice the things I’m sharing with them,” the US-licensed music educator shared.
Michelle recently finished training in early childhood music education in Chicago, Illinois, and now a licensed trainer for Musikgarten, a music school that promotes early musical literacy, language development, and social interaction.
She also privileged to be trained in LA by Seth Riggs. Riggs is one of the most sought-after mentors of late Michael Jackson and some A-listers on the American music scene like Madonna, Michael Bolton, Barbra Streisand, Stevie Wonder, to name a few.