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Singer's Success Benefits Others
By Lori Horvitz
APRIL 15, 2001
She's on her way. (PHOTO: SHOUN A. HILL/ORLANDO SENTINEL)
At a St. Cloud talent show last year, a young Hispanic singer stepped on stage and belted out a country music tune that wowed the crowd and wooed the judges.
She ended up winning the chance to compete at the Motown Café at Universal Studios City Walk, where she scored her biggest break of all: Some folks from KMA Records, an independent record label near Nashville, invited her to record her first compact disc.
Meet Von-Marie Montijo, a 15-year-old singer now living in Orlando. The Cypress Creek High freshman is not your typical teenage Shania Twain-wannabe.
Sure, she wouldn't mind nabbing a hit song and seeing her name rise to the top of the music charts, but Von-Marie said she wants more out of her career than fame and riches. She wants to help people.
That's not just talk. She's already doing it.
In February, Von-Marie gave two concerts that raised $3,500 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. On Feb. 17, she had a CD-release party and performance at the Wyndham Palace in Lake Buena Vista. Less than a week later, she sang at the Osceola Museum of the Arts.
That's not all. A portion of the sales from her CD will benefit the foundation, which grants the wishes of children who have life-threatening illnesses.
"God helped me make my wish come true," Von-Marie said with a proud smile. "I would like to help other kids make their wishes come true."
Von-Marie, who is Puerto Rican, moved to Orange County from New York in 1997. She started singing at age 7 and learned to play the flute, piccolo and viola.
Her parents, Hector and Lourdes Montijo, said they thought Central Florida's thriving entertainment industry might boost Von-Marie's singing career. She gets an hour of coaching every Saturday from a singing instructor.
"It doesn't matter what kind of music she performs," Hector Montijo said. "We want her to get the exposure. But we also want her to know that we are blessed and that she can use her career to help other kids who don't have the same opportunities."
Von-Marie traveled to Nashville in November to record 10 country tunes for her CD. She recorded songs written by other artists.
She and other KMA artists also performed at the Alabama Show Palace in Anniston that month.
Von-Marie's plans include working on songs for another CD and performing more concerts. Her father said proceeds from those efforts will go to charity.
"In Von-Marie's short career, she has established a good sense of professionalism," said Keith Bradford, president of KMA Records. "Her angel voice will make it in any phase in the music industry."