khadijah-rolle_web.jpgFrom more than 8,000 applicants across the country, Khadijah Rolle has landed a spot in the top two percent of high school students who are competing for high honors and a chance at $10,000.

Khadijah is one of 142 students, eight from Florida, chosen to participate in a highly coveted, week-long experience that includes classes and workshops with world-class artists and arts educators. There is also an opportunity to perform for peers and instructors.

This year’s youngARTS week takes place in Miami from Jan. 12 through 17.

YoungARTS  is the core program of the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts. It boasts alumni such as actress and former Miss America Vanessa Williams. Finalists also have the chance to be nominated as a Presidential Scholar in the arts and to perform in an off-Broadway show or exhibit in New York City.

“We are honored to recognize these fine young artists,” said William H. Banchs, president of the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts. “They represent the next generation of extraordinary artistic talent, and it is our hope that their experience with youngARTS will not only provide them with the tools they need through scholarships and valuable educational lessons, but also compel them to pursue their passion.”

Khadijah’s mother, Trecia, discovered her daughter’s powerful vocals when the then-eight year old belted out an R&B tune that her mother mistook for the radio.

“When I was a little girl, I kept telling my mommy that I could sing. One day, I was in the bathroom taking a shower when my mom sent my older sister, Caressa, to turn the radio down,’’ Khadijah said.

She said her sister told her mother, “That’s not the radio. That’s Khadijah singing.”

The 17-year old has been singing since she was seven. She was introduced to a large variety of music by her late father, Cary, who died when she was 11.

Devastated by her father’s death, Khadijah channeled her grief and anger into her singing. She  said when she was in the sixth grade, she realized her gift.

“I started to actually discover what really could be something big,’’ said the high school senior at New World School of the Arts in Miami. “My teacher [Mrs. Cidel] from middle school, she helped me to really take this as my craft, to fix it and mold it to what it is today.’’

What she has today is a full, powerful voice with the control of Anita Baker and the richness of Gladys Knight.

She has already begun to pack theaters. During a summer performing arts camp in New York, she blew away audiences with her performance as Effie in the camp’s performance of the play Dreamgirls.

“They had lines galore, it was standing-room only. People were stopping us in the airport,” said Trecia, following her daughter’s performance as the heartbroken character with the show-stopping voice.

The role was portrayed in the movie version of the hit play by singer and actress Jennifer Hudson, who earned an Academy Award for her performance.

Khadijah’s mother said that her moving performance as Sarah in the play Ragtime had grown men crying.

Khadijah is already being sought after by casting agents. She received a call back for her audition for the upcoming movie Fame, an audition that she was invited to attend when agents saw her perform at the summer camp.

While she  is planning a career in the performing arts, Khadijah is adamant about also attending college – she has narrowed her choices down to Howard University and University of Arts in Philadelphia.

Of her experiences at the summer camps in New York, for which she earned full scholarships (the camps cost $3,000 to attend), Khadijah said,

“I was just a sponge and soaked up everything I was supposed to.”

Khadijah said she is excited about the upcoming youngARTS week.

“I want to sing in a way that I’ve never sung before,’’ she said. “I’m hoping that it’s a performance that’s different from anything that I’ve done. I want the song to be mind blowing. I want to capture their attention the minute I open my mouth.”

Photo by Khary Bruyning. Khadijah Rolle

WHAT: youngARTS week in Miami
WHEN: Jan. 12 – 17, 2009
WHERE: Various locations in Miami
CONTACT: Visit or call 305-674-1040 for more information.