You know we’re into speech and debate. Cynthia interviewed an alumnus of the program, Victoria Emmons, who has cultivated quite an acting and music career for herself. Most of the band have participated in speech and debate when younger, and they’re definitely “in action” today…
Speech and Debate Alumnus Victoria Emmons shares how her experience in speech competition has propelled her into a budding career as an actress and recording artist. As a high school senior, she didn’t want to leave the competitive environment—but offers a message of hope to future alumni.
In 2007, The Ivy Street Band released its debut album, Neon Shore. The band consists of the four Emmons sisters (Christina, Victoria, Natalie, and Stephanie) Austin Kearney, and Jeremy Clayton. They met when they were making the movie Come What May.
“Jeremy was there doing sound,” Victoria explains. “Austin and I were acting, Christina was there, and we just started jamming, to relax, every night. We were like, ‘hey, we could record something and people might listen to it.’ And Jeremy flew out and then we recorded our CD that fall, and that’s how it started.”
While some songs contain Christian lyrics, the band does not identify itself as one that is in the Christian genre. “It’s not like we’re afraid of our audience,” Victoria explains, “or we want to be like the world to get a bigger crowd, that’s not what we’re going for. It’s just that there [are] ways to show that you are a Christian by what you do. And you don’t have to say it in every song.” At the same time, she adds, “We want all of our songs, all of our life, to be displaying Christ…Realize you need to walk the walk. You live your life on pictures on the album and stuff like that, you also need to talk the talk…you can’t just say, ‘We’re Christians, let that show,’ you have to, we are supposed to speak the truth. So it’s been an interesting thing to figure out where’s the balance.”
The Ivy Street Band’s lyrics, Victoria insists, “are deep…either stories or more poetic than the straightforward, repetitive chorus.”
When asked what genre the Ivy Street Band belongs in, Victoria could not name any. “It’s kind of a jam band…we all come from different backgrounds. Austin is Jazz; Jeremy, he has a lot of Simon and Garfunkel in him, and then the four of us have country and bluegrass and classical background. You put that all together and we jam all the types. We’re acoustic rock with a little folk in there.
“Our style is hard for people to grasp onto sometimes, so we have to persuade them. Persuade them that it’s okay, first of all, to listen to that kind of music, and persuade them to listen to it again. You want to give enough layers to your music that they listen.”
Victoria emphasized that the sound of the music should be welcoming enough to allow audiences to enjoy it enough to listen again. “Maybe by persuading them that it’s okay to keep listening to it, they’ll get more out of it as they go.”
The band release its new title, Dust, this week. In comparison to the first album, Victoria says that the sound and selections have “a more mature sound.” Check out details here.
When Neon Shore was released, Victoria had just graduated from high school. To compare with the new album, she affirms: “I’m not saying I’m wise and mature now, but I’m more wise and more mature than I was when I was 18. And I can speak for the rest of the band, too: it’s the same for them. Three years have gone by. You should be a better musician by then, better singers, better together as a band. And I think that will show when you hear it.”
“The first one had no drums—we had some percussion stuff—the second one does on some of the songs. With the second one…we took what we started with, figured out what we didn’t want to continue with, and brought that to a different level. Not toned it down, but solidified.”
If you want to hear the unique sound of the Ivy Street Band, you probably won’t get to see them perform near you any time soon. “We live all over the country, so we don’t perform.” Victoria notes. “Austin lives in Portland, I live in Southern Oregon close to my sisters, Jeremy lives in South Carolina and he’s moving to Phoenix. We’re an Internet band, so it’s hard to get the word out when you’re just an Internet band.”
How Speech Helped
“I was, and kind of am, a shy person,” Victoria admits. “I didn’t know how to speak my thoughts. I had a lot going on inside, and that often came out in music, and art as well. Artists have a lot of emotions, a lot of energy, a lot of thoughts rolling around, and so by learning how to communicate and speak my mind and speak my heart—that helped.”
Victoria learned to communicate effectively, but also to be comfortable while on center stage.
“By learning how to speak, it transfers over to writing and performing, singing, and playing. All those things go together. You learn how to show that emotion. That was one aspect that speech competition helped.
“Another one was being comfortable in front of people. Displaying your skills by speaking is sort of similar to playing in front of people. You have to be open to rejection. You have to know people will get the music or people won’t get it. People will like your speech, or they won’t. It’s part of life, the rejection and the acceptance.”
Though she never did debate, Victoria was successful in platform events that involved the necessity to persuade her judges. “There are two ways persuasion comes in,” she quips. “It’s when you’re actually playing the music, getting them to appreciate and like your music, you have to actually persuade them to buy the record. That’s part of life. If you’re selling stuff, you can persuade them that your product is good.”
Beyond high school
Victoria launched into acting and music right out of high school, and she shares that she struggled with it. “Eighteen’s a year where you go through a lot of changes. For me, I didn’t want to graduate from high school. It was the saddest night of my life when I had to graduate, because of speech and all the memories I had. I felt like I wasn’t done, and I could’ve still grown more, I could have done debate, and all this stuff. I was like, ‘Why did I have to get old?’
“But now, I wouldn’t trade it, because of what God has shown me. I want to give hope. There’s better stuff out there. This is just the beginning, like the launching pad. Wait until you get launched, and then—everything I’m doing right now, except for music, really, I was doing that before, but everything else has come from speech competition. It’s not all sad when you graduate, because there are better things out there.”
“Here we are in our life, and we’ve come this far, we’ve grown up, we’re a little more mature as a band and as people. But, we have a lot more to do.”
Chris Jeub and John Sleadd contributed to the interview for this article.