Thursday, April 22, 2004_
  _Suburban Chicago's Information Source

New Zealand music star wows kids at St. Raphael

By Kari Allen Daily Herald Staff Writer
Posted Thursday, April 22, 2004

Some St. Raphael School students admitted Wednesday that Hayley Westenra doesn't perform the type of music they usually listen to.

But when the rising music star from New Zealand stepped up to the microphone at the Naperville school and started singing, the students fell silent and looked mesmerized.

"Her voice is excellent," said eighth-grader Myssa Aker.

Eighth-graders Katie Cooney and Erin Edwards predicted Westenra will make it even bigger than she already has.

Westenra, 17, recently released her third album - and first to go international - "Pure," which fuses everything from pop to classical music. She recently performed on "Good Morning America" and just started a Radio Disney School tour, through which she performs for students.

As part of the tour, Westenra performed several songs at St. Raphael and fielded questions from curious fourth- through eighth-graders. Students asked about everything from the types of animals in New Zealand to details of Westenra's schooling and her musical background.

Westenra told students she carries a laptop computer with her on tour to e-mail work to her teacher and keep up with lessons. And, she told students, she comes from a musical family.

She answered questions with an easy smile, shying away from over-the-top attention. In fact, she told students as her rendition of "Amazing Grace" was played off her album, that it's a bit embarrassing to listen to herself perform.

"She's a very regular girl with no ego," said her manager, Steve Abbott. "She's not like a lot of stars."

Abbott and Westenra's father, Gerald Westenra, watched her perform Wednesday. Her dad recorded the whole event.

Gerald Westenra said he still gets goose bumps watching his daughter perform.

"Not in our wildest dreams did we ever think this would happen," he said of his daughter's success.

Her parents first became aware of Westenra's talent during a school Christmas play in which she had a solo when she was 6. Her teacher told the Westenras their daughter had perfect pitch.

From there, Westenra learned to play the violin and piano and starred in some school musicals. And she took singing lessons.

As her reputation continues to grow, Westenra has plans for this fall, when she'll make a guest appearance on NBC's "American Dreams" and will perform an end-title song on Disney's "Mulan 2."

With all her plans, Westenra said she's glad she's able to visit schools as part of it all.

"I really enjoy this sort of thing, interacting with students," she said. "I hope I can inspire some of them to pursue their dreams."


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Item link thanks to Jon Voslo


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