En español | The votes are in! After more than 1,700 people sang their hearts out in their homes — and some even on their boats in open water — and sent in videos to enter the AARP Superstar Singing Contest, we have a winner!
Maggie Delaney-Potthoff, 66, of Madison, Wisconsin, who captured voters’ hearts — and clicks — with her irresistible versions of “What a Wonderful World” and “My Favorite Things,” is AARP's 2020 winner. Cue the applause!
"It was fun!” says Delaney-Potthoff, a fan of James Taylor and Brasil ‘66, who was wowed by the other Superstar contestants’ videos. “What I liked about it was just the soulfulness of these singers saying, ‘Hey, I love to sing, I'm gonna do this!’ We're in COVID times, so they were in their bedrooms, singing in front of their hanging clothes; they were in their living rooms. One gal said, ‘Excuse my COVID hair.’ You know, it's just, we're all in this together. We're all in the same boat dealing with the same thing. I think this contest is more organic than America's Got Talent."
From gypsy jazz to superstar singer
Delaney-Potthoff says she's sung all her life, and for years in Wisconsin's popular Gypsy-jazz band Harmonious Wail. “We do livestreaming concerts every Friday night, and we're going to pop a cork to AARP at our next concert (Sept. 18, 7 p.m., Central time). We're dedicating ourselves to songs that continue to reach out and lift people's spirits."
She owes her award to a friend of her husband's who loves her music. “He sent an email and said, ‘I think Maggie should go for this.’ It was sitting there in my in-box for, oh, my gosh, all summer, and then late one night, I got a message in my head that said, ‘Hey, what about that singing contest?’ So I threw on a red dress at the last minute, right before the deadline, stood in front of the piano and sang a song."
Why ‘What a Wonderful World'?
"I was inspired by how stuck so many of us are in this transitional pandemic time, and that's what pushed me to sing ‘What a Wonderful World,’ because it's uplifting and it's warm and fuzzy, and the lyric holds true with all the crazy dynamics going on in the world right now. So it just popped into my mind.”
As for “My Favorite Things,” Delaney-Potthoff picked the popular tune from the Sound of Music because, as she puts it, everybody's spending way more time at home among their “bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens.” The showtune made immortal by Julie Andrews, which centers on positive thinking, had deep personal meaning to Delaney-Potthoff. “I was uplifted just thinking about my loving family — my husband and two sons. Our son Henry died suddenly, five and a half years ago, in an accident, and our world fell apart. And we learned at that time how music is so healing. And now when I sing that song, I extend myself out of my worries and concerns, and hope that everyone's being able to feel a little bit better in hard times because of music."
Singing advice for future superstars
A singing instructor who taught a University of Wisconsin course called Singing for Screamers, Delaney-Potthoff urges people — especially rock fans — to learn breathing techniques to sing without damaging their pipes. Using what she calls Maggie's method, she says: “You should be able to sing 24/7 for 100 years or more, keeping your voice in good shape. Continue to do the breathing exercises. Keep it tuned up, and it'll work for you.” It sure worked for her.