For the past few months, I’ve been working with Silo’s in Napa to put together a talent competition for local performers called “Silo’s Got Talent.” It’s reminiscent of the popular “NV Idol” we created at the Napa Valley Opera House some years back although this time around, kids and adults can compete in the performing arts genre of their choice.
Then as now, it’s exciting to see (and hear) a rich collection of talented people from both Napa County and surrounding cities. And sometimes, there’s a gold nugget hiding in the silt!
Meet Angela Kennedy. By day, she’s the innkeeper at Churchill Manor, an elegant and stately 1889 mansion that houses a bed-and-breakfast near downtown Napa.
By night, less than a week ago, Kennedy, who never sang before a live audience, wowed the judges and was chosen as one of eight finalists for “Silo’s Got Talent.” On May 14, her 52nd birthday, Kennedy will croon solo again in front of friends, family and complete strangers for the third time and, as she said, will “try to nail it” for the top prizes.
Ironically, Kennedy never dreamed of singing as a career option, nor did she fantasize about singing alone onstage. She entered the competition on a whim encouraged by a work colleague and the gentle cajoling of her sister Audrey Blackmon. A native New Yorker, Kennedy’s real passion is cooking (and more specifically, baking), inspired by helping out her mother at the family’s restaurant.
Kennedy draws parallels between the stressful experience of baking her first wedding cake and that of having to calm her nerves — and her voice — while waiting her turn to perform.
With regard to that cake, because she was known by her friends as a stellar baker, she was asked to make her first wedding cake. “The cake was to serve 125 people,” Kennedy shared. “It was 10 layers, chocolate espresso, and took me 16 hours to make! I decided that I was going to learn an easier way to do that.”
She went on to graduate from Le Cordon Bleu culinary school as a pastry chef, landing jobs in Hawaii, Denver, for a Norwegian cruise line and on the West Coast in a stint in Catalina.
With regard to singing, Kennedy was a natural — in the shower, in her high school chorus and church choir (her father is a Baptist minister). For many years, she was closely involved in what she describes as “other people’s music.”
For example, Kennedy traveled the world as road manager for recording artist Sylver Logan-Sharp, former lead singer of the legendary group Chic. For five years, Kennedy ran a jazz club in Manhattan and hired the talent for six nights each week.
“One night,” Kennedy confessed, “the club owner hired a band, picked up all my friends to play this song, and he expected me to get up and sing. I wouldn’t do it. I guess it was the fear of being around so many professional musicians, I always felt intimidated. The opportunity was there, but I was good at what I was doing and thought I should do what I was good at.”
Kennedy has recently started shifting into high gear for May 14. She began vocal coaching with Terry Bradford and is in the midst of deciding what songs to perform. Her favorite singers are James Taylor and Stevie Wonder (whom she will hear at BottleRock, thanks to a birthday present from a friend).
“I love the old standards, and I grew up with R&B, blues and jazz, and that music is very important to me,” Kennedy said. “I would really like to put some blues tunes together, but I’m taking baby steps, and this would be a great place to start.”
Kennedy admits that the competition will be stiff. “There is such great talent in the room,” she acknowledged, “and the young people are so amazing. I was always the person who sang in the shower, and I was always around musicians, but I never got up the courage to sing. If nothing ever comes of this, I have to pat myself on the back for that.”
Come and cheer on all the finalists at Silo’s Got Talent, Saturday, May 14, at 8 p.m. For ticket information, visit SilosNapa.com.