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posted: 8/19/2013 4:00 PM

Suburban Chicago's Got Talent winner not just a pretty voice

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  • Gabriela Francesca of Palatine won Suburban Chicago's Got Talent earlier this month.

      Gabriela Francesca of Palatine won Suburban Chicago's Got Talent earlier this month.
    JOE LEWNARD | Staff Photographer

  • Video: Gabriela Francesca


Gabriela Francesca won Suburban Chicago's Got Talent this summer by singing pop and R&B tunes made famous by the likes of Whitney Houston, Bruno Mars and Shirley Bassey. But doing covers isn't the only artistic trick Francesca has up her sleeve.

This 19-year-old from Palatine also writes her own songs, plays acoustic guitar and performs with her self-titled band in Boston where she is a student at Berklee College of Music. She also has appeared in plenty of musical theater growing up, most recently in a college production of "Hair."

"My major is called 'professional music,' which is basically Berklee allowing you to design your own major," Francesca said. "I can focus on voice and get private lessons and do all the classes that enrich the vocal side of music, but I can also select classes in the music business area. All my performances I book and sometimes I have to write up contracts, so I'm very independent in that area right now."

Before she heads back to Boston, suburban Chicago audiences will have a couple of more chances to hear Francesca sing. She's one of five Suburban Chicago's Got Talent finalists performing before a Maggie Speaks concert at Randhurst Village in Mount Prospect on Wednesday. She is also booked to sing American songbook standards at Shaw's Crab House in Schaumburg on Friday, Aug. 30.

Although Francesca has released several of her own songs online and had other performance gigs lined up this summer, she felt competing in Suburban Chicago's Got Talent would be a worthwhile pursuit.

"I try to never be slacking," said Francesca. "(Suburban Chicago's Got Talent) provided a really good way for me to perform and be critiqued and hear feedback about everything and ways to improve by unbiased people watching my performances. Also to hopefully expand my Chicago audience and get some new listeners."

Francesca already has some experience in talent competitions. She successfully competed in Golf Mill's Got Talent in Niles, and she was a top 10 finalist who got to work with cabaret star Michael Feinstein in the Great American Songbook High School Vocal Competition in 2010.

As the winner of Suburban Chicago's Got Talent, Francesca receives an expenses-paid trip to audition for producers of the NBC show "America's Got Talent." It won't be her first TV try. On her 16th birthday, Francesca auditioned for "American Idol" in San Francisco, and she has memories of waiting 10 hours in line at Navy Pier for a previous casting call of "America's Got Talent" in Chicago.

"I am very used to blatant rejection," Francesca said about TV talent show auditions. "It doesn't define how good of a musician you are ... I hope that I have a shot, but if not, I am definitely going to keep pursuing music and doing my own thing."

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