It takes a commanding presence to silence a bar room.
But when Stephanie Bowen took the stage at Padonia Station Monday night, the crowd put down their drinks.
Bowen, a Bel Air resident, won the Timonium bar’s annual singing competition and fundraiser, dubbed for 2012 the Voice of Baltimore. It was Bowen’s fourth outing, having never even placed in top 3 before Monday night.
But that all changed after the 25-year-old astonished the audience with her renditions of the Star Bangled Banner and Whitney Houston’s “I wanna dance with somebody.”
“It was surreal,” Bowen said of hearing her named called as winner.
Bowen had one of the larger followings of the 17 performers who made it to Monday’s finals.
“It’s either that they like to hear me sing or they like any excuse to get out and have a drink on a Monday night,” she quipped. “It’s just a rush being up in front of people and being able to perform and sing.”
Bowen said she used to be uncomfortable with the performance aspect of being on stage.
“I could sit there and sing, but I would freak myself out ahead of time and listen to the song over and over again to make sure I knew the words because I wasn’t used to singing without a karaoke screen,” she said.
Honing her voice and getting comfortable in front of an audience started at 17 years old when she sang the National Anthem at high school lacrosse games at Fallston High School.
From there she started singing karaoke at a local bar, which at the time was run by a friend’s aunt.
“So I was going to this bar at 17 years old, which we were allowed to. I’d be drinking water and standing in the corner, and not moving anywhere. But every Thursday night I’d be there singing karaoke,” Bowen said.
These days Bowen and her “karaoke circuit” can be heard at bars like The Main Street Tower in Bel Air or Fattie's Bar and Grill in Essex. Bowen also runs Rock Band Karaoke at Looney’s Pubs North and South.
Now Bowen is planning to take her singing to new serious levels, although she was coy about future plans.
“I’m working towards it,” she said. “There is something currently in the works. But I can’t talk too much about it. But beginning of next year there will be something happening.”
Winning the Voice of Baltimore and the prize of a 10-hour professional recording session certainly doesn’t hurt. Bowen will also be singing the National Anthem once again, only this time at a Baltimore Oriole’s game.
The annual singing competition raised over $2,000 for the Ed Block of Courage Foundation, which has been the primary beneficiary for the last 11 years.