Radio Disney's N.B.T. On Tour kicks off Sunday, July 1, at Taste
of Joliet. Gates open at 11 a.m.
Featured N.B.T. artists for season five will take the stage
followed by headline performances by Shealeigh and Disney Channel
star and singer Shane Harper.
Artists will be available to meet and greet with fans. A limited
number of wristbands are available at 11 a.m.
The concert is free with festival admission.
Talk to Carol Voitl about how things are going now that her
daughter is a national music star, and she invariably will tell you
that Shealeigh is having the time of her life.
Still, being the parent of teenagers is all about helping them
navigate the pitfalls. And when your kid's life suddenly is thrust
into the limelight, the pitfalls get more numerous and varied.
Shealeigh's introduction to stardom was pretty accidental,
though it wasn't without purpose. She simply did what she loved. At
2 ½ she sang every word to "American Pie" at a block party.
Neighbors would hear her singing songs while driving her Barbie
car. And then there were the "Shealeigh songs" which, according to
Voitl, were "very dramatic and never made any sense and we loved
Her parents started videotaping those songs and sending them to
Shealeigh's grandparents, who live in Mooloolah in Queensland,
Australia. When YouTube came along-and Shealeigh became more
accomplished at both singing and songwriting-they harnessed the
power of the internet.
Ellen DeGeneres and her staff found Shealeigh on YouTube doing a
cover of VV Brown's "Shark in the Water" and sent her parents an
"We thought we were being punked," says Voitl.
Shealeigh appeared on Ellen in October 2010. She was 12, just
starting seventh grade.
After that, Voitl says things became "confusing."
"It was a very hard sorting opportunities from opportunists,"
"I loved taking advantage of opportunities that she wanted to
pursue, but you just have to be very careful. It just made sense to
me to step away until you find that person who you really feel is
Frayne Lewis turned out to be that well-intentioned person.
Lewis runs One Sun Entertainment, a management and recording
Lewis, son of jazz great Ramsey Lewis, says Shealeigh is very
mature for her age-both vocally and in the music she writes. She
also has that infamous "it factor."
Shealeigh and her mother are just as focused on schoolwork and
life balance as they are on her singing career. Consider this:
after Shealeigh won N.B.T., her brother Ben, who had to stay in
Chicago because of finals, called to congratulate her. But she was
in the midst of a meet-and-greet with Aussie pop sensation Cody
"I had to interrupt the meet-and-greet because it was really
important for her brother to be a part of this monumental moment,"
She also wasn't sure how she felt about Shealeigh working at
Her trepidations increased when Radio Disney required a second
song. Voitl says Shealeigh got busy writing "Spotlight" and emailed
the last lyric at 1 a.m.
"Some days I was just shocked that she knew what she wanted to
do and what she had to do," says Voitl.
More importantly, Shealeigh loved doing it.
After N.B.T. took off, "they added a tour and I got really
worried," Voitl says.
Shealeigh missed a lot of school in the second quarter of eighth
grade, and some of her teachers weren't happy about it.
"No disrespect to anyone at the school, but they thought it was
all fun," says Voitl. "It was work. We've been to Los Angeles eight
times, but we've never been to a beach or Disneyland."
Shealeigh was focused on performing, but she completed every one
of her assignments.
"She had the most understanding principal on the planet. He
completely believed, he completely understood and supported.
Without him I would have to say that this would not have been
possible," Voitl says.
And as a member of performance troupe MWAH! (Messages Which Are
Hopeful), an anti-gang and anti-bullying group, Shealeigh also
gained confidence to talk about her personal fifth- and sixth-grade
bullying experiences. Shealeigh's response was to cover the Taylor
Swift song, "Mean," a song Voitl says carried more meaning as she
sang it in her N.B.T. tour shows.
In response to this year's difficulties, Shealeigh wrote a
yet-to-be-named 5 ½-minute song.
What Voitl finds interesting is that the dynamic would have been
different if Shealeigh was, say, a sports hopeful.
"With sports it's so recognized," she says. "If she was being
recruited to Notre Dame it would be good news, but I don't
understand why it's not the same with music."
At this point, Voitl is looking into homeschooling options for
high school, as she, her daughter and Lewis embark on a series of
tour dates through December.
Although she has always checked with her daughter as each step
unfolded, she is feeling more sure than ever that this is exactly
where Shealeigh wants to be.
"She would never want to be doing anything else, but it's not
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