Kari Kinnett of Villa Grove
"I don't know what I would do if it was not for music!" 22-year-old Kari Kinnett says. "I don't know how else to express my feelings, my emotions, what I am going through."
Kinnett was born prematurely at 25 weeks in Guam, where her parents were both serving in the military. As a result, she was born with retinopathy of prematurity and is totally blind. She also has autism and is a savant.
Her mother, Amy Kinnett, described the musical journey of her child.
"At the age of 2, Kari was in a recording studio. We actually have a recording of her singing. At the age of 3, she was playing 'Mary Had a Little Lamb' and 'Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star' on her Fisher-Price piano.
On her 5th birthday, her grandparents gave her a Casio keyboard and she taught herself various tempos and rhythms.
"Kari first performed in church, singing and playing the keyboard, when she was 6 or 7. It grew from there."
Mother and daughter then started singing at Lions Club meetings and civic events. By the time she was 9, Kari had won a national talent competition.
Music became her special niche, and it has helped her relate to people. She especially enjoys karaoke with its audience participation and the feedback she receives.