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When she was seven years old, freshman Isabelle Parel sang a version of Amazing Grace that brought her audience to tears in her first per­for­mance.
“I thought it was bizarre that everyone was crying,” her sister, junior Cecily Parell, said. “I didn’t realize her talent until that show.”
But that talent man­i­fested itself into a far broader audience through the show American Idol.
From American Idol and singing with Keith Urban to per­forming at engagement parties and restau­rants, Parell, now a freshman, has plenty of singing expe­rience for her 19 years.
According to Cecily Parell, they grew up in a home filled with music.
“We would put on music and we’d all just sing along around the house,” she said.
After the Amazing Grace per­for­mance, Parell waited eight years to submit an online audition tape for American Idol when she was fifteen.
“I got a call from Cal­i­fornia and he said he was from American Idol and wanted me to come to Chicago,” Parell said.
Although uncertain, Parell said it was her mother who encouraged her to follow through, just as it was she who first asked her which song she would sing at the talent show eight years prior.
Three days after the phone call, she drove to Chicago with her father to sing for the exec­utive pro­ducers and, the day after, the judges.
“Keith Urban sang with me. I didn’t think I was going to make it but I did, and they flew us up to Hol­lywood,” she said.
During the first round, Parell sang “I can’t make you love me,” Bonnie Raitt Later that evening, she per­formed with an assigned group. Although Parell didn’t make it through to the next round, she impressed audi­ences with her unique, mature style, receiving fan mail and becoming the subject of a fan page.
Past vocal instructor Doug King described her voice as natural and folky, qual­ities he worked to maintain as he helped her perfect her tech­nique.
“Her natural sound is so unique and smokey,” he said.
She even taught herself guitar, and Parell has con­tinued to sing and play in restau­rants and other large venues.
But it has not been an easy journey. During the Hol­lywood per­for­mance for the assigned groups, she had a line that she was going to sing, but just mumbled her part and bumped into someone during the dance routine. Incredibly upset, she col­lapsed as she was leaving, and they called the medics.
Parell, usually inclined to blend in, has also found the “spot­light” aspect of singing to be a great chal­lenge.
“She’s a very humble person,” King said. “While her vocal quality is very natural, we needed to spend an hour walking to the tempo of the music just so that she could learn to move with con­fi­dence. Her humility is a great quality unless she’s walking into a room of 1,000 people.”
In spite of the many obstacles she has had to face, Parell said that the many expe­ri­ences and people she has met have made the trials worth it.
“I met one of my best friends through singing,” she said. “It has brought so many amazing people into my life.”