Visitors at the Riverwood’s Romano’s Macaroni Grill can enjoy their favorite opera tunes sung by freshman Mary Hoskins on the weekends.
Hoskins, a vocal performance major from Saratoga Springs, is a hostess and singer at the Riverwood’s Macaroni Grill restaurant. After she was hired at the restaurant last summer, Hoskins entered a nationwide competition, “Macaroni Grill Opera Sing-off,” a contest open to all Macaroni Grill employees. Earlier this month, Hoskins competed on a national level and won 2nd place in the competition.
Last August, Hoskins was dining at the restaurant with her uncle when he suggested she apply to work at the Italian restaurant.
“I had never been to Macaroni Grill before, and when I went there with my uncle he said ‘You should work here, they hire singers, and you sing,'” Hoskins said. “He asked one of the waiters if they were hiring, and they went and got the manager. I told the manager I was interested, and they asked me to sing and then they hired me the following week.”
After being hired, the opportunity came earlier this year for Hoskins to take part of the national “Macaroni Grill Opera singing-off” competition. Encouraged by her family and friends, Hoskins entered a 30-second video of her opera performance. The first part of the competition consisted purely of online voting and a lot promoting on social media from Hoskins.
“I had a lot of support from people around me,” Hoskins said. “I learned a lot from it, especially how to control my nerves.”
After qualifying for the next round, the top six opera sing-off contestants were flown out to Dallas, home of the original Macaroni Grill restaurant and corporate headquarters. The contestants competed for the top prizes, with Hoskins winning 2nd place and $5,000 cash prize.
Juan Castro, Provo’s Macaroni Grill managing partner, is delighted by Hoskins’ success and the great personality she brings along with her.
“She has a wonderful personality, which I believe influences her voice greatly,” Castro said. “She is very caring and giving and that translates to her voice. When she sings it’s appealing; she has a beautiful voice and she knows what she is doing.”
Castro also spoke about how frequent guests and employees of the restaurant have reacted to Hoskin’s win.
“The team managers and team members were very supportive, we were very happy to see her win,” Castro said. “She’s received a lot of compliments and congratulations from a lot of the guests that know her well. You can tell the difference when someone sings because they want draw attention to themselves, compared to when they sing for other people because they care, and that’s what (Hoskins) does.”
Despite the frustrations and the nervousness that came along with the competition, Hoskins is still glad she decided to participate.
“I love music, and the frustrating things about performing–all the nerves and the inexperience that take away from the music–are just part of the learning process,” Hoskins said. “More than anything, I love experiencing the feelings and telling the stories of the incredible characters one finds in music while singing.”
Hoskins hopes to continue sharing her talent with others through other competitions such as the Metropolitan Opera Competition, one of the most prestigious opera competitions in the country.
“I hope to perform in the future; I want to try out for summer programs and competitions and try and see how I do,” Hoskins said. “I just want a place to perform, it doesn’t matter how small the stage is.”
Dr. Ruth Christensen, adjunct faculty in the vocal area at BYU’s School of Music, believes Hoskins has what it takes to make it to the bigger stages.
“A lot of people that entered this opera sing-ogg competition were more advanced than she,” Christensen said. “She has an innate vocal tone; it’s something that no one can teach you. The vocal faculty here was thrilled not only because she deserves it, but because she is very talented.”
Christensen also spoke about Hoskins ability to transmit her personality through music and help others feel what music.
“When she sings there is something that is communicated spirit through spirit,” Christensen said. “She hasn’t had a ton of vocal training, but she has this naturally warm and beautiful sound that when she opens her mouth to sing it’s inherently beautiful, and that’s impressive to people.”