The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

Local News

April 8, 2012

Danville teen to sing on ‘Today’ show

DANVILLE — A 30-second song on national television could change Christian Cunningham’s life.

If not …that’s OK. The 16-year-old is happy just to get the chance to sing Tuesday on The Today Show.

Cunningham, a sophomore at Danville High School, has been chosen as one of nine singers to compete in front of Kathie Lee and Hoda. He flies to New York City on Monday, and will return after the show.

“I’m really excited. I’m nervous,” he said Saturday, adding it’s his first time flying, as well. “Whatever happens, I’ll take advantage of the opportunity and hope for the best.”

Even if he doesn’t win, he said, he’s grateful for the national exposure.

His parents and a former music teacher, however, are confident the young man will advance in the competition.

His father, Derrick Cunningham, said, “We’re proud of him. He’s come a long way.”

Although his son is only 16, his voice sounds like Luther Vandross’, he said, referring to the late singer/songwriter.

Retired music teacher Marty Lindvahl agreed, saying, “If you close your eyes, you think a 40-year-old man is singing — his voice is that rich.”

Lindvahl got the ball rolling when she was watching The Today Show, and saw they were looking for young people, ages 9-16, to compete in a format similar to the TV show, “The Voice.”

The first person she thought of was Cunningham, adding, “I knew they would be super impressed.”

After getting permission from Derrick and Alicia Cunningham, she videoed the teenager singing a cappella at the home of Dr. Randal Ashton and also at St. James United Methodist Church. He sang “Superstar” by Vandross.

The video had to be submitted by March 30. Last Thursday, Lindvahl got a call from New York that Cunningham had been chosen from thousands of audition tapes. All expenses are paid for on  his trip.

“I’m just tickled to death that they saw something in his voice,” she said, adding she got the news on her birthday. “I’m pretty super-excited.”

On Tuesday, the young people will sing a song or two, and, like in “The Voice,” Kathy Lee and Hoda will have their backs turned. If they like what they hear, they’ll turn around.

Derrick Cunningham said his son did well on the video, but he’ll do even better in person, when the natural sound of his voice comes through.

If he’s chosen, the teen will go back at the end of April and the finals will be at the end of May.

His son is a keyboardist and singer at the New Life Church of Faith. The teen also sings in the Show Choir at school, and has performed at local events. He also auditioned for “The Voice” in March in Chicago, but didn’t advance.

The younger Cunningham, who said he’s a gospel singer at heart, is relying on his faith to get him through the next few days. “God has his hand on me,” he said. “Wherever God takes me is where I’ll go.”

Cunningham noted he has a lot of people in Danville who support him.

Lindvahl agreed, saying, “He’s a wonderful kid, inside and out. He has a lot of people who love and support him in Danville. He’s just a deserving kid.”

Not only is he talented, but he’s very humble, she said.

Lindvahl is confident about the young man’s future, adding, “I think we’ll look back and say, ‘We knew you when …’”

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