Teenager’s video earns her preliminary victory

Published 12:00 pm Friday, April 17, 2020

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A local teen’s music video has earned her a chance to perform live in Music City USA.

Kalee Russell, a 15-year-old freshman at Fort Dale Academy, submitted a video of her vocal performance to the Music City Superstar Online Singing Contest earlier this year. This past weekend, she learned that she was the online preliminary winner for the teen division of the contest.

Needless to say, the teen is very excited.

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“I can’t wait,” Kalee said. “This is going to be so much fun.”

As the top contestant from her division, Kalee is slated to be part of a live summer preliminary at the Nolensville, Tenn. Buttercup Festival slated for June 13. If she is her division’s live preliminary winner, she will also earn prizes and the chance to perform as a finalist at the Kidsville Family Festival in Nashville’s Centennial Park scheduled for Sept. 19.

Kalee is no stranger to performing. A veteran of the Ritz stage since her elementary school days, she’s sung and danced in a number of “Putting on the Ritz” productions, along with “Christmas at the Ritz.” She is also active in  the music ministry at Southside Baptist Church and was recently selected by audition to be part of the Alabama Baptist Convention’s One Voice Tour.

One could say Kalee gets her musical talent honestly. Her mother, Vicki Burt, is a veteran Ritz Player, known for her powerhouse vocals in a number of GAAC productions, as well as concert appearances with fellow Ritz Players and singing for church services. The mom knew her daughter had what it takes.

“When my mom told me about the contest, she really didn’t even give me an option to do it,” Kaylee said. “She just said you are doing. At first, I was a little skeptical about entering because I didn’t know how impressive my vocals would be to the judges, compared to everyone else.”

Still, the young singer mustered the courage to shoot a video, performing “Wondering” from “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series.”

“Performing and singing, whether it’s in my room by myself or for an audience, makes me feel like I’m bringing joy into people’s lives,” Kalee explained. “Seeing people smiling and responding to my singing has inspired me to keep doing what I’m doing.”

The competition has kid, teen and adult divisions. Each division has now chosen an online preliminary winner. Kalee and her fellow winners advance to the live preliminary at the Buttercup Festival, with overall winners selected at the final competition in Nashville.

Kalee’s vocals could earn her a Summer Showcase Package or Summer Camp admission, each valued at $250, and the opportunity to participate in a recording session, themed photo shoots, choreography lessons, field trips, songwriting workshops and more.

“Kalee is so excited about this opportunity and, of course, I am excited for my girl,” Burt said. “We appreciate Lindsey for making all this possible.”

That’s Lindsey, as in Greenville native Lindsey Benedict, now a Nashville-based musical artist, worship leader, songwriter, music educator and vocal coach. Benedict hosts the annual Nashville Experience Summer Camp at her home and serves as a vocal coach for the performance showcases. She is thrilled at the prospect of one of the Camellia City’s own being a guest this summer.

“Greenville is where my love for music first blossomed,” Benedict said. “I am truly happy that Kalee decided to send in a video for our online contest. We have so much talent in my hometown and she is a perfect example of that.”

Kalee added that she hopes to be able to inspire as many people with her musical gifts as her mother has on stages and in sanctuaries.

“My mom has always been my inspiration to continue to perform,” she concluded. “I  just want to live up to her name and the musical talent she has.”

Visit www.nashvilleexperiencecamp.com for more information on the summer camp and showcase.