In most ways, Kimie LaGreca is just like every other young woman with big dreams of a singing career. At 22, she lives on her own, attends vocal lessons each week, and performs regularly onstage. She enjoys the endless support of her family, especially that of her devoted mother and sister who book her performances and offer encouragement.
But unlike most aspiring singers, Kimie faces some unique obstacles—she is mentally challenged. Diagnosed with a learning disability in elementary school, Kimie dropped out of Forest High School just short of the credit requirement. She is unable to hold a regular job, and while she’s lived in her own apartment for the past three years, a supported living coach from Advocacy Resource Center (ARC) Marion checks in on Kimie regularly.
What she lacks in certain facilities, however, Kimie more than makes up for with her extraordinary gift—a strong, lilting voice that soars on such songs as “Unchained Melody” and “Dream a Little Dream of Me.” When asked how she discovered her talent, Kimie says she simply started singing because it was fun. She’s known since she was 5 that she wanted to be a singer.
“I listened to a lot of music growing up,” Kimie says. “My mom bought me a little karaoke set with the stand and microphone, and I’d stand in front of the TV and sing.”
At first, not everyone in Kimie’s family was aware of her exceptional talent. But all that changed with one rousing performance of “Unchained Melody” at a family gathering several years ago.
“When I was 16, I sang at my aunt and uncle’s wedding,” Kimie recalls. “My father didn’t know I could sing. His mouth dropped. Everybody just started bawling.”
Kimie soon started earning professional accolades for her singing. At a showcase in Orlando two years ago, her rendition of that same powerful song caught the ear of Stella Parton, sister of country music icon Dolly Parton.
“She’s a natural,” Stella says. “I love the way she took hold of the song and sang it like she’s been singing it for 40 years.”
So impressed by what she heard, Stella personally invited Kimie to record at her Nashville studio. Kimie’s sister, Krissy Mosblech, and mother, Lynn Brennan, are trying to raise enough money to send her to Tennessee.
“That’s her dream, to be a professional singer, to cut a demo,” Krissy says. “I’m determined to do it. It might take me a couple of years, but it’s going to happen. I have the drive, and she has the drive.”
In addition to a full-time job, Krissy devotes her free time to managing Kimie’s career as well as her own daughter’s; Kimie’s 11-year-old niece, Caylinn, is an aspiring singer, too. Krissy works overtime to pay for both to attend private singing lessons.
Kimie began studying with local vocal coach Darlene Schlatter in April. A semi-retired opera singer whose résumé includes performances at the Metropolitan Opera and 30 years of teaching, Darlene is renowned for recognizing and developing singers’ abilities.
“Kimie is naturally talented,” Darlene says with unmistakable enthusiasm. “She has that beautiful vibrato in the voice, the little wave when you sing. It’s beautiful.”
Like so many people who meet Kimie, Darlene found her a joy to be around from their very first meeting.
It was a performance of “Unchained Melody” at a family wedding
that made people stand up and take notice of Kimie’s vocal abilities.
“She has such a lovely personality,” Darlene says. “The first lesson, I didn’t have any problem at all getting my instructions across to her. She picked everything right up.”
Darlene expects discipline and focus from the small number of students she mentors, and she makes no exceptions for Kimie.
“I drove 125 miles each way, twice a week, for a 45-minute singing lesson when I was young,” she says. “I expect my students to give 110 percent.”
Sheila Poehler, director of Ocala Models and Talent, has been awed by Kimie’s talent since first seeing her a year and a half ago. Ocala Talent represents and promotes Kimie throughout the area, booking her at events like ARC’s Hog for Hope event and the United Way of Marion County’s Women of Worth dinner.
“She deserves the recognition,” Sheila says. “She’s such an inspiration.”
Standing onstage, microphone in hand, Kimie’s gift is as much motivating others to follow their dreams as it is delivering an emotional ballad.
“Her niche is inspiring people like herself who may feel like they can’t make it,” Sheila says, smiling. “They can.”
Listen to Kimie perform “Unchained Melody” at www.youtube.com/KimberlyTheresa
For more information about Kimie’s upcoming performances, contact Ocala Models & Talent at (352) 369-1212.