By: Jeannie Mai
Taking three deep breaths, she stepped in front of the small group of girls. She had sung in front of large audiences before, but it wasn’t the numbers that made her nervous. It was this audience in particular. This performance was not just another performance. This one had meaning. This one had a purpose. As she looked across the room of eager faces, she began to sing.
In Nov. of 2011, junior Kayla Calica performed with Talentum Youth, a club dedicated to sharing and inspiring their talents to the community, at the Maryvale Orphanage in Rosemead . She appropriately chose Mariah Carey’s “Hero,” a song with powerful lyrics that tells people to look within themselves to find strength. She was hoping to “make an impact” on the girls and ended up exceeding her own hopes.
She recalls seeing the girls, along with the caretakers, with tears running down their faces, never realizing she had the ability to make such an impact.
Calica remembers one little girl in particular who was angry because of a game earlier that day. She was sitting on one of the adult’s laps and as Calica prepared to sing, she saw her anger melt away. The girl hopped off of the adult’s lap and went to join the other children on the mat in front of her.
Talentum Youth club president, Veritas Kim (’13), found Calica’s performance “clear and beautiful.”
“She was nervous beforehand, but on stage, she was just like any professional: calm and confident,” Kim said. “The girls were very impressed.”
For as long as she can remember, Calica has been singing. It all started when she was three years old. Her mother, Edel Calica, purchased Disney sing-a-long tapes that would always be playing and eventually Calica grew to love them and started singing along. With her passion only growing, Calica officially joined choir in the third grade at Mark Keppel Elementary School, and has stuck with it throughout high school.
Edel also had her attending early morning practices at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints “to gain more experience and enjoyment in singing and performing.”
Every Sunday, she would learn and memorize songs that she performed in front of the congregation several times a year. Calica would also sing at several community service events, such as the Fourth of July Jubilee at Forest Lawn and at various nursing homes.
When it came time for her audition for the chamber choir, her “voice kept cracking and [she] couldn’t get the sound right.” However, when she discovered she got in, she felt it was “one of her biggest accomplishments yet.”
Calica and friend Hyunah Bae (’13) were the only two freshmen that got into chamber. Bae feels Calica’s voice is “truly one of a kind” and a voice like Calica’s is unheard of because it is “deep and soothing” with a “unique and natural vibrato that’s never forced.”
Bae sees a lot of people today who fail to find their “original voices because of all the trends and influences of mainstream music,” but says that Calica “certainly expresses her own.”
Calica admits that singing as an alto in chamber choir her freshman year was a “really scary” experience. She recalled being in Toll Middle School’s choir and whenever chamber students would come over, she was “terrified” and looked up to them like “gods.”
Edel fully supports her daughter’s singing career, and is especially grateful to Kayla’s vocal teacher, Elizabeth Richey, for the “knowledge, support and experience she has imparted with Kayla.”
Richey has known Calica since fifth grade when she taught the chorus at Keppel. She feels Calica’s “warm, rich and mature” voice is what makes her unique.
“Kayla has perfect intonation and sings very passionately,” Richey said.
Richey remembers accomplished tenor, Rodell Rosel, coming in for a vocal clinic and specifically commenting on “what a gift” Calica’s voice is.
Richey’s favorite performance of Calica’s was “Keep Holding On,” a duet with Nick Bassirpour (’11) at the annual pops concert, because of how passionate both singers sounded.
Calica admits she only recently started appreciating music. She “didn’t have a reason before” because in chamber, students are exposed to many different classical pieces, which “isn’t really [her] style,” but she has grown to love it.
According to Calica, the hardest part about singing, other than the “technical things like breath support,” is knowing what emotion to put into the song.
When it comes to music, most people worry about their pitch and how they sound. For Calica, however, emotion ranks first on her list. Bae knows Calica feels passionately about music, and claims “there is no Kayla without music.”
Stepping out of her comfort zone and into theatre, Calica decided to audition for drama’s latest production, “Beauty and the Beast.” She received the role of a Silly Girl, one of the girls who swoons over villain Gaston. She also played one of the French maids in the castle.
“Honestly, singing and dancing is hard. I’ve never really acted or danced and I’m not good at multitasking, but I love the challenge,” Calica said.
Being a part of “Beauty and the Beast” inspired her to try more of the arts. She feels “if she goes through this, [she’ll] grow.” She plans to audition for her church’s production of “Annie.” She is also attending the Carnegie Hall trip with choir at the end of May.
In the future, Calica hopes to attend Brigham Young University-Hawaii and continue her singing. Though she does not know whether it will be her professional career, she knows it’s “something [she] wants” to keep in her life. She plans on taking music and vocal classes in college.
“I want to learn more. I’ve had Richey all my life. It’s going to be hard [to learn under someone else] but I want to see what others can teach me,” Calica said.
Edel knows that “singing will be a big part of Kayla’s future.” She is grateful that her daughter is knowledgeable about music and “knows that she will touch lives as she shares her talents with others.”
“If I become a singer, one of my goals is to make sure my words mean something,” she said.