Northwest News

Aspiring vocalist

Teen hits right note with nursing home performances

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

Not many 14-year-old girls are equally familiar with the sounds of Connie Francis and Patsy Cline as they are with Katy Perry, but aspiring vocalist Stephanie Rinaldi can tap them all to connect with multigenerational audiences.

Rinaldi performs once a month at the Darby Glenn Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Hilliard.

The center recently recognized the two-year anniversary of Rinaldi's monthly performances with a reception following the music. Rinaldi's family presented photographs of her with residents of the center taken at past appearances.

"To see the smile on their faces is just so priceless to me," Rinaldi said.

She said her frequent visits have allowed her to forge friendships and identify residents' favorite songs, including Francis' Where the Boys Are and Cline's Crazy.

During some performances, Rinaldi will single out a subject for an almost individual performance in a room full of people.

Lauren Limbacher, an activity assistant at the nursing and rehabilitation center, said residents look forward to Rinaldi's visit each month.

"'Is today the day?' they ask," Limbacher said.

While the experience provides Rinaldi with an outlet for her passion to perform and the chance to make friends, it also opens her up to a reality of life that other 14-year-old girls might not have experienced. The tough part of a gig, Rinaldi said, is when she learns about the death of a resident she had seen the month before.

"That's so hard for me," she said. "I come each month and see the same faces and make friends and then I miss seeing someone, and they have to tell me..."

Rinaldi began singing when she was in the second grade after successfully auditioning for the Columbus Children's Choir. Kelly Schenbeck Riley, then a substitute music teacher at Hoffman Trails Elementary School, encouraged Rinaldi to audition.

Rinaldi, an eighth-grader at Hilliard Heritage Middle School, performed with the Columbus Children's Choir through the fifth grade, and was a member of the Kids Company Performing Group from the third through the seventh grades.

Upon the closure of Kids Company, she began working with a coach at GnG Music.

Locally, she performs The Star-Spangled Banner at athletics events throughout the district, particularly at Hilliard Heritage Middle School and Davidson and Darby high school sporting events.

Once a year, her family vacation includes a rendering of the national anthem at a game for the Great Lakes Loons, a class A minor league baseball club in Michigan.

Rinaldi's performances at Darby Glenn began at the request of a family friend.

In April 2011, she performed at the center for the 67th wedding anniversary of Carl and Kathryn Headlee.

Rinaldi added a new song to her repertoire: Cline's Always. It was the last time the couple danced before Kathryn's death a short time later.

"We have memories over the past couple of years that will stay with us forever," said Laura Rinaldi, Stephanie's mother. "Kathryn was at a point where she couldn't walk on her own any more and Carl told me, 'Kathryn can't dance with me.'

"I told him to just hold her up. ... I looked around the room and there wasn't a dry eye in the house."

Laura Rinaldi recalls another time when a resident who seldom spoke to anyone at the center began singing Where the Boys Are with her daughter, and another time, a resident who did not speak English gave Stephanie a necklace after a performance.

All are indicative, family members said, of the power of music.

That power is not lost on Stephanie Rinaldi, who is considering studying music therapy in college. Ohio University offers a graduate program in music therapy.

Monty Coakley, 62, a resident at Darby Glenn and a veteran of the Marine Corps, said he most enjoyed Stephanie's rendition of Amazing Grace.

"She makes everyone in the room feel special ... as if she is singing straight to you," said resident Jimmy Feltner, 63.

In addition to her vocal performances at Darby Glenn, Rinaldi sings at the Prince of Peace of Lutheran Church in Dublin and plays the clarinet.

Next year, Rinaldi will attend Darby High School, where she aspires to become a member of the marching band and audition for the school's select vocal groups.

She is the daughter of Chris and Laura Rinaldi of Hilliard.

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