Most people say the National Anthem is one of the most difficult songs to sing. Nobody told that to Gina Marie Incandela, a young girl from the Orlando, Florida area. She has performed that song in front of audiences as large as 30,000.
Basketball fans that watched the 2007-2008 season playoffs probably saw her singing on TV before the Orlando Magic home games. After her first appearance at a Magic game earlier in the season, she was so well received by the fans and the team that she was invited multiple times. Up until the playoffs, the Magic never lost a game if Gina sang the National Anthem beforehand. They lovingly called her their lucky charm.
Gina started singing in front of people when she was about 6. Some of her credits include major sporting events such as the 2008 US Open Tennis Championship, an Orlando Predators game, spring training baseball games and graduating into Major League Baseball teams. “She has no understanding of the magnitude of some of the things she’s done,” said her mom, Michelle. “She got invited to Shea Stadium during the last season that Shea was in existence. She was just down there on the field hanging around with all the Mets. She just thinks it’s fun without comprehending how unusual these experiences are.”
Her outstanding talent is just one aspect of what makes Gina exceptional; Gina is also autistic. As a small child she had trouble finding her voice – at age three she had hardly spoken a word. “If it weren’t for Gina’s speech and language delays we might never have had her evaluated and found out about her autism. We might have just thought that she had some behavioral quirks.”
While undergoing music therapy her mom learned about Gina’s amazing musical ability. With daily practice and perseverance Gina is addressing the challenges of autism – she feels comfortable singing in front of 30,000 people but nervous in a small group. This didn’t impede her appearances on the Today Show and Good Morning America. “They asked me about my singing and what I like about it,” Gina said. She told them, “It makes people feel happy.” Gina is in many ways a typical child and spoke comfortably with me.
In her short singing career, her resume fills more pages than mine. Local fans of MLB’s spring training can see her perform at several Florida ball parks. Once the season begins, she often travels to Houston or New York to sing before the cheering crowds with her family. Her little sister, Lexi, acts as her manager, making sure she has her water bottle and any other items she might need before her performance.
Gina is fortunate to be surrounded by an amazing family. Her stay-at-home dad, Dwayne, dealt with her special challenges before she was diagnosed while her mom, Michelle, practiced law and attended doctor visits and testing. Grandpa Mort has been there from the beginning to provide love and support and never misses a family dinner, let alone one of her performances.
As a writer of human interest stories, I consider myself lucky to have met this family. When writing about families like this, I could hardly call it work.
Listen to Gina sing or on her websites www.myspace.com/GinaMarieIncandela and see more photos at http://www.ginachildperformer.com.