KINGMAN - When musician Chris Commisso was 15, even the thought of performing in public made him ill.
Although it was a lifelong dream, Commisso couldn't stomach getting up in front of an audience to sing or to play the piano, keyboard, drums or guitar. As the problem intensified, he sought out a doctor and was diagnosed with social phobia, severe social anxiety and agoraphobia, or the fear of having a panic attack in front of other people. The combination of disorders was debilitating.
"I would go into a store and have these panic attacks there," said Commisso. "They got worse and I started opting out of any performances and never coming out of my room. It was difficult because I wanted to sing more than anything and yet I was having a problem being out with people. Everything was magnified by 100 percent and I literally felt like I wanted to die."
Fast-forward to today, where Commisso regularly performs for audiences throughout the area and is now reaching beyond it. He will be giving a free Christmas concert at 7 p.m. Dec. 20 at St. John's United Methodist Church, 1730 Kino Ave. And recently, Commisso sent in a video submission for The Voice, a vocal competition show now in its fifth season on NBC. The show features four stages of competition and the grand prize winner receives a recording contract.
Commisso also has been chosen by fans on the website hosted by American Idol emcee Ryan Seacrest as one of six semi-finalists for their rendition of Katy Perry's song entitled "Roar." The final winner will be chosen by fan votes, and the voting runs through Monday. Commisso currently is in fourth place. His video can be viewed at www.youtube.com/watch?v=LSfZsyg1VqA and votes in his favor can be placed at Seacrest's website, www.ryanseacrest.com/2013/12/03/semi-finals-vote-for-your-favorite-cover-of-katy-perrys-roar/
"I'm up against contestants from The Voice and American Idol," said Commisso. "The big artists. I'm the only one who is a small fish in a big pond. So I thought I would let people in Kingman know so they can vote for their hometown boy. I'm really excited about it, but I'm staying on track with my mission of sharing my music. If I worried about winning these contests, I'd be an emotional wreck because I lose them all the time. Once you start looking at your stats, the game is over."
Commisso also has branched out into music production, and has taken on a singing group from North Dakota called "Tigirlily," producing their Christmas song, "Holiday Honey," for Ron Howard and Brian Grazer's Imagine Entertainment. And since 2008, Commisso has been building his own YouTube channel, called ThePianoShack, featuring his music videos at www.youtube.com/user/ThePianoShack.
In other words, Commisso is not afraid to step out into the limelight - and even have a panic attack in front of people he doesn't know - anymore. Thanks to Anthony Robbins life coaching sessions, where Commisso learned to take control of self-defeating thoughts and focus on others instead of worrying about himself, the singer has found a new lease on life. He's even able to share his struggles and help others deal with similar problems in their own lives.
"I tell them you don't have to be stuck with who you are right now," said Commisso. "The real you is being clouded by what people think of you. There's a freedom in saying it's OK to make mistakes in front of others. Most people today are hiding a plethora of problems, especially those in the entertainment field. What I've found is that you have to stand up in front of your audience, give them your best self and your gift of music, and let them be them."