By Chris McCarthy/Publisher/Editor
As her recent achievements suggest, 13 year-old Kate Falcon can carry a tune.
The Southside resident and Rainbow Middle School incoming eighth grader was the overall winner of a statewide vocal competition last month, an achievement that landed her a two-year recording and management contract.
Beginning with an audition last September at the Alabama School for Fine Arts in Birmingham, Kate made it through five elimination rounds. She was the only contestant to advance to the finals in three genres. Her renditions of Martina McBride’s “Independence Day” and her version of Hillsong’s “At the Cross” resulted in first-place showings in the Country and Contemporary Christian categories. Kate also competed in the Top Forty category.
Over 180 people participated in the competition, with a winner in each of the 10 music categories.
The Alabama Talent Company, which ran the competition, will include Kate on an upcoming compilation CD entitled “Alabama’s Emerging Artists.”
“The finals were a lot of fun, and there were a lot of talented people there,” said Kate, who cites McBride as her favorite artist. “The judges really liked it.”
Kate’s dad Leroy, who is the executive director of the Coosa Valley YMCA, noted that it was a matter of numbers as to why Kate entered three different categories.
“A lot of folks came out (in the finals) and sang one song and were done. “We figured that if we entered three categories, maybe she’d be left with one by the finals. We certainly didn’t anticipate her advancing in all three. So Kate had a lot more pressure by having to learn three new songs every month.”
Kate’s mom Patricia is the executive director of the Children’s Advocacy Center located in East Gadsden. Steve Pennington and Jenny Hodges are Kate’s voice coaches.
Kate pointed out that performing a song in front of judges and an audience entails much more than memorizing some lyrics.
“One of the songs that I sang was “Set Fire to the Rain,” by Adele, and me and one of my voice teachers had to go over what the song meant and how to tell it as a story. I had to understand the emotion of the song so the judges could feel my emotion, also.”
“It’s impressive that Kate’s learned to approach music that way at her age,” added Falcon. “We had just lost her grandmother to cancer, so it was easy for Kate to feel the emotion in the Martina McBride song.”
Kate noted that it was a balancing act over the past nine months between school, practices, auditions and performances.
“We had finals and SAT [exams] going on at the end of the year,” she said. “I’d study for 60 questions for a civics exam, go to a voice lesson, come home and study some more, and then go to bed, and the next day start the whole process over again. It can be very chaotic sometimes.”
Kate said that the teachers and administration at RMS was very supportive of her musical endeavors.
“When I won, they announced it on the intercom. My principal (Tracy Cross) was really excited and was literally jumping up and down! People were coming up and congratulating me, which was really nice.”
Kate is scheduled to perform at Southside City Fest on July 23, the World Deer Expo in Birmingham on July 20-22 and First Friday in downtown Gadsden on Oct. 5. Earlier this year, she sang the national anthem before a Rome Braves baseball game, at the Alabama Chocolate Festival in Rainbow City and before the Class 5A state baseball semifinal series at Southside High School. She also frequently sings at her church, Southside First Baptist.
Kate recently performed at the Boaz Relay for Life and Boaz Second Saturday events. She is already developing a fan base on Sand Mountain.
“After a lady saw me perform at the Relay for Life, she brought a whole bunch of people to the Second Saturday, just to see me. I signed around 30 autographs that night!”
Kate, however, is finding out that like any other endeavor, singing requires discipline and sacrifice.
“Last summer before City Fest while my friends were doing fun summer activities that I used to do, I was inside constantly practicing in our music room. I lot of hours goes into the technical part of singing. Part of performing is being like an actress with a script onstage. You’re not just singing – you have to interact with the audience with talking and telling stories, and it takes a lot of time working on that.”
Kate also pointed out that food and liquid restrictions are part of her preparation, such as warm water in stage, no chocolate or sweets, no chewing gum and no citrus drinks.
Despite her age, Kate acknowledges that stage fright were never much of a concern.
“I’ll get butterflies sometimes, but I actually never get nervous,” said Kate, who also participated in this year’s Attalla Junior Idol competition. “Being in front of people singing doesn’t scare me. The only time I got nervous [during the competition] was when they were calling out who won.”
Kate’s comfort level on stage dates back to her first concert appearance, when at age 11 she was the opening act for Travis Tritt at Center Stage in Rainbow City after winning a talent competition by local radio sponsored by WQSB 105.1 FM.
“I soon as I finished, I asked my dad when could to that again,” she said with a laugh.
Kate credits her ease with interaction with people to her being partly raised at the YMCA facility in Baton Rouge, Louis.
“I remember being up at the front desk when I was six, answering the phone. I used to love talking with people at the Y.”
Kate comes from a musical background. Her dad plays guitar and occasionally accompanies her at performances. Her uncle Gary manages a music store in Georgia and plays several instruments, while Kate’s mother and grandmother sing. Kate currently is taking guitar lessons.
“I was exposed to music at a very early age,” said Kate. “I just found a video of me when I was around seven and my little brother (Lane) was about three, and I was picking him up and singing and dancing to Journey’s “’Open Arms.’”
Kate’s singing career began at age four with renditions of “God Bless America” and the LSU fight song. Due in part to her dad’s affinity for classic rock, Kate did countless covers of Journey songs.
“Going home every in Baton Rouge took almost an hour sometimes with all the traffic, so my dad would put on Journey and I would rock out. And if I didn’t hit a note by (lead singer) Steve Perry, I would tell dad to rewind that part and ply it again until I hit it.”
Falcon said it was around that point that he began to recognize both his daughter’s true love for performing and her desire to be technically sound.
“We also talked about how the judges at these talent shows aren’t just observing what happens on stage,” he said. “They’re watching how you interact with people. So we had to have Kate understand that she should use the character values she learned at the Y in being humble, being friendly and being caring.”
With regard to her future, Kate said that she’s eventually like to sing on center stage at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tenn., and audition for the television show, “American Idol.”
“It’s a big goal, but hopefully, it will happen. I’d love to try out [for American Idol] when I’m old enough, but I have to wait two years because of the age limit.”
As far as her new recording career is concerned, Kate would like to cut an original country song. She noted that the Alabama Talent Company is in the process of bringing in songwriters for its compilation project.
Follow Kate at her facebook page Kate Falcon – entertainer. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.