03/18/07 — Madeline shares NYC debut

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Madeline shares NYC debut

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on March 18, 2007 2:09 AM

Madeline Edwards used to sit in front of the TV watching "Sound of Music" -- and singing along.

Now, she is one step closer to stardom.

Madeline, 11, a sixth-grade student at Eastern Wayne Middle School, performed live Tuesday morning on CBS' The Early Show after winning the months-long "Living Room ... Live!" talent competition.

The daughter of Michael and Kelli Edwards of Goldsboro advanced to the final round of the competition, beating out an 8-year-old Raleigh girl who sang the "Star-Spangled Banner" and a teenage rock band from Oklahoma. With 41 percent of the on-line votes in her favor, the prize was to perform live at the network studio in New York City.

Seven members of the family accompanied her -- Madeline's parents and 9-year-old sister Mary Lindsey, along with both sets of grandparents, Jack and Betsy Edwards and Mary and Wayne Sullivan.

With free time before her television debut, the family took advantage of the opportunity to do some sightseeing and shopping. Madeline said some of the highlights of their two-day visit were a carriage ride and ice skating, both in Central Park, and visits to FAO Schwartz and Toys R Us. She was also invited to attend a dress rehearsal at the Metropolitan Opera for "The Egyptian Helen."

"Just me and my B.B. (grandma Betsy) went," Madeline said. "It wasn't what I expected because the scene that was on stage was very abstract."

Tuesday morning, a car was to pick everyone up at the hotel at 5:15.

"We had to get up around 4," Madeline said, noting that the driver would have also returned them to the hotel after the performance, "but he locked his keys in the car ... We didn't really need a car, though, as the hotel was about a block from the studio."

Upon arrival, the family was ushered into a waiting room, where they had breakfast. The area is typically called the "Green Room," except it was not that color.

"It was," her dad said, "more like Carolina blue."

Madeline warmed up her voice and was taken to rehearsal. She said there were a couple of run-throughs before it was time for hair and makeup.

"It was kind of exciting," she said of being pampered. "It was fun because you always hear that in the movies."

Behind the scenes, she got a chance to work with one of the hosts, Harry Smith.

"We were doing a teaser and they wanted me to warm up. Harry Smith was warming up with me in the hall," she said, which prompted her to say to him later on-camera, "You're not a bad singer yourself."

Smith, she noted, was "really nice and funny, fun to joke around with."

The whole experience, which went by all too quickly, was one she described as "really cool ... I had never done anything like that before."

She sang "Chacun le sait" from the opera "The Daughter of the Regiment." She said she has only been working on it since September with voice teacher Elaine Baker of Raleigh. It typically takes about a year to learn a whole song, she said.

They chose that song, she said, because it showed off her voice.

"There are a lot of high notes and runs," she said. "It's a really nice song, too."

As soon as her segment of the show wrapped up, it was time to return to the hotel and begin packing for the return flight that evening.

Needless to say, Madeline has not had a lot of sleep this week.

In addition to returning home and back to school, she has to resume voice, piano and dance lessons, and hopes to continue the horseback riding lessons she began recently.

While she admits to enjoying other forms of music -- dad Michael says he encourages her to also listen to some of his favorites in pop and rock -- she prefers opera and classical. She said she especially likes opera singers Maria Callis, Renee Fleming and Kathleen Battle.

Her penchant for the genre began before she was even born. Michael said his wife used to put earphones on her pregnant stomach and play music.

To hear Madeline tell it, "She listened to a lot of Mozart. It was supposed to make me smart in math."

That didn't exactly play out, though. She prefers language arts, science and social studies, she said.

Her musical talent began to emerge at an early age.

"When I was about 18 months old, I started watching 'Sound of Music' and singing all the songs," she said. "When I was about 3, Grandma B.B. got me a Charlotte Church CD and I really liked it. Ever since then, I have been singing that kind of music."

Where her powerful voice came from, Madeline could not say.

"I guess it was just there," she shrugged.

"Grandma B.B." has worked with Madeline a lot over the years, having been a music teacher at Wayne Country Day School. Madeline later began taking lessons, first in Greenville and for the past two years in Raleigh.

She sings in five languages -- German, French, Italian, English and Latin. Although she doesn't speak or necessarily understand all of them, she said she became more familiar with them when she made her first CD -- at age 7.

"Madeline Edwards" featured a blend of opera and classical songs, as well as Christmas, Broadway and patriotic selections. Proceeds from the CD were given to juvenile diabetes research, with nearly $6,000 raised.

The cause is near and dear to her, having been diagnosed with diabetes at age 4. She said she has learned to manage it, and often lends her voice to speak or sing if it helps raise awareness.

One day, she would like to be a spokesperson for diabetes, she said. Next month, she will sing at the Juvenile Diabetes Federation gala to help raise money for the cause, and is scheduled to speak in Raleigh later this month about her own struggle with the illness.

As for her professional aspirations, Madeline has some short-term as well as long-term goals.

"I would really like to make a CD since it's been four years (since the last one)," she said. "I want to continue performing and singing, and I definitely want to go to New York a lot and any opportunity I have, I will probably take it."

Going to Juilliard in New York City, one of the world's premiere performing arts schools, is another dream, although she said she knows it is very competitive and hard to get in. That isn't going to deter her from where she wants to end up, though.

"I want to be a professional opera singer, and I want to be a movie actress," she said. "I would rather act in films or movies rather than on Broadway."

Possible offers could begin coming her way sooner than expected, thanks to the TV show appearance. Michael said they have already been inundated with calls and e-mails he is still sifting through since returning home.

Madeline, who turns 12 on March 28, is trying to take it all in stride.

"My friends, they treat me the same. Nothing's really changed with the people I know," she said. "But at school, there's a lot of people I don't even know ... never really talked to me before, telling me I did really good. It's kind of nice because everybody knows who you are."

She and her family have been approached by people they didn't even know before all this, she said, including a few autograph-seekers when she dined out one afternoon at B&G Grill.

"It's been a really good experience," she said. "I hope and I think that a lot of people are excited for me not only because I was going to be on there but it's kind of for Goldsboro. We're such a small town compared to a lot of places."

She said she is grateful for the hometown that helped play a big part in her win.

"I would like to thank everybody in Goldsboro for voting because it really means a lot to me and hopefully it means a lot to other people," she said. "It was really special, and it was a really close vote."