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Perfectly pitched

The Voice of McDonald’s singing competition engenders crew loyalty

Talent and loyalty are what the Voice of McDonald’s (VOM) in Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa (APMEA) showed on stage as the fast-food chain named the four best singers from among its employees in the region at the APMEA finals held in Hong Kong last month.

The biennial singing competition is part of McDonald’s employee engagement programme to reward and recognise the best singing talents from among its 1.8 million employees worldwide.

Shaun Ruming, vice-president of HR and training for McDonald’s in APMEA, says the VOM has been growing from strength to strength. “It’s an excellent platform for our crew and managers to showcase their singing talent, and has become a highly anticipated event on the McDonald’s global calendar. This is one event that galvanises everyone from the crew room to the boardroom. The energy and the talent of our people is amazing,” he says.

More than 55,000 entries from McDonald’s 450,000 staff in APMEA were received – triple the number of entries compared with the last VOM in 2011. Of 110 finalists, 14 crew members from Australia, China, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Kuwait, New Zealand, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia and South Africa were chosen to sing their hearts out in the APMEA finals. 

“We are happy with the diversity of talents. This competition reenergises our markets and our crew members. It is truly a large-scale attraction to build brand engagement for McDonald’s, and brings opportunities to our talented crew members,” Ruming says.

The four winners were Nicole Thornton from Australia, Oneg Israel from Israel, Rocky Loreto Rosabal from the Philippines, and Precious Mahlangu from South Africa. They each won US$3,000 plus a paid trip – with a guest – to the company’s Worldwide Convention in Orlando, USA, for the VOM finals in May 2014.

Ruming says the winners were the region’s “best-of-the-best talents” and that they wowed the crowd with their individuality. “It was a good show. Their talent was very deep. There was a lot of heart and emotion in the outstanding performances of these young people. It builds pride and fosters engagement among our crew members. The next step is to get them ready for the worldwide competition through voice coaching and preparations for on-stage performance,” he says.

For the first time, this year’s VOM included the “Fan Favourite” contest, with McDonald’s employees and the public voting for their favourite regional contestant. Rosabal won the cash prize of US$2,000.

Rosabal, who hails from the Philippines, says he began singing in contests at a young age. “My dream is to become a famous singer one day. This is our version of McDonald’s Idol, and it has given me the opportunity to realise my dream of becoming a singer. I have not seen other companies run a singing competition on the same scale as McDonald’s,” he says. 

The four APMEA winners will compete against 12 other global finalists – four each from North America, Latin America and Europe. The grand VOM champion stands to win US$25,000, with US$17,000 awarded for second prize, US$12,500 for third and US$7,500 for fourth.

The VOM grand champions from the past two competitions came from McDonald’s APMEA region. Chenee Capuyan from the Philippines and Chrislyn Hamilton from Australia won in 2009 and 2011, respectively.

“It seems that there are some strong entries from the other areas of the world. Our eyes are wide open for the showcase of big talents. I believe we have a very strong chance that we could win this again,” Ruming says. “We are confident that with the right song and preparations, we will win again. Their talents are truly unbelievable. This is another high for McDonald’s.”

Nicole Thornton – Australia
With hopes of becoming a recording artist some day, Thornton plans to attend the Australian Institute of Music to set the tone for a career in music.

Knowing that she will be singing against great talents from McDonald’s restaurants worldwide, she sees the VOM as an amazing opportunity to make music and meet friends.

“Being on this VOM journey has been fantastic – from the support I have received to the friendships I have made. I feel really lucky to be a part of it,” she says. “VOM has given me the opportunity to realise my dream of becoming a singer.”

Oneg Israel – Israel
“I like to sing soul and R&B music. I sing in my school choir and take singing lessons. I think VOM will benefit me and my future as a performer, and it will also be a lot of fun,” Israel says. “I am a dancer and an actor as well, and I want to be a professional musician.” 

To hone budding talents and discover opportunities, she advises fellow crew members to hold on to their dreams of performing on a world stage through VOM. “I encourage every crew [member] and manager to participate. You never know where the VOM journey will take you. It’s a life-changing experience,” she says.

Rocky Loreto Rosabal – Philippines
A precocious child singer, Rosabal learned to play instruments, joined a band, and sang in international glee club competitions all by the time he was a teenager.

He says the VOM competition has changed his life and that the cash prizes would go a long way towards supporting his education.

He vows to continue practising in front of live audiences in his community and in local McDonald’s restaurant events.

“My goal is to improve the power of my singing and stage moves to make sure I give a performance that everyone in the grand finals will enjoy. If not for McDonald’s, I would not have experienced all of this,” Rosabal says.

Precious Mahlangu – South Africa
Drawing her passion for music from her family, Mahlangu says she has been singing since she was eight years old.

“I love R&B, jazz and opera, and sing with Opera Africa as a lyric soprano. I have toured twice in the US, performing with my school in Chicago, Charlotte and Washington, and am now a member of a developing singing group called Sweet Voice Masters,” Mahlangu says.

She says she has gained much from the VOM competition. “It is an experience of a lifetime. I love meeting new friends and learning about new cultures,” she says.