- Written by David Glowacki
We are proud to announce that Kechi Okwuchi is a winner of a 2020 Anton Yelchin Foundation Artist Grant in Music. Kechi is not only an artist living with a disability, but she is also a bullying prevention advocate. We are so happy that we can make a positive impact in her life.
When did you first start singing?
I had been singing choir since I was young. But I really started singing seriously after the accident happened. My voice went through a weird transformation, I guess, it changed in a very noticeable way after the accident. My voice mysteriously improved after the plane crash and I started singing with more confidence than ever. With music being my major escape, it was a major factor of happiness before the accident in 2005, it became more crucial in my treatment afterwards.
How did you get into America’s Got Talent?
I never would have applied, myself. I didn’t think I was competitively good enough. Even though I love singing, would never have applied to something like that on my own. A friend of mine, just got tired of asking me to apply. I just couldn’t do it. I had so much on my plate. So, she filled out all the applications and did everything. She uploaded a video of me doing an Adele cover song. And she told me that she did all the work. She sent me the link and said, just press submit on this online application. So, I hit submit, and forgot about it for two months. And I got a call from Destiny, a segment producer on AGT.
What opportunities came up after you did AGT?
The most important thing that happened was more exposure than I would have ever imagined. I was able to be on a new platform and with new organizations. The first one was The Burn Society, which I had already been a part of even before the show. Being on such a public platform made me visible to many other burn organizations across America and beyond. Being that I always wanted to be an advocate for other burn survivors, this was amazing for me. It gave me a chance to not only represent Shriners Hospital, the hospital that actually took care of me and my treatment, but it gave me a chance to represent them in a much bigger national way by being a patient advocate. From there, I was getting in contact with many other organizations such as the Arizona Burn Foundation, Phoenix Society, World Burn Congress and multiple burn camps, andnow I know these amazing people who are doing great things for burn communities everywhere in America”. I’m able to see all these kids and inspire them and let them know they can still live their lives and still have fun and do what they want to do, despite what they have gone through.
The second thing is that I never thought I would be able to pursue music professionally, but the show gave me hope and people were interested to what I had to say and what I have to sing. The interest that people have shown to me in my voice and perform for them, being able to have the opportunity to record my own original music and helping me explore what I can actually do as a song writer and having producers and other song writers be interested in me. These are things that I didn’t think would ever happen. Case in point, I’m actually travelling to Austin, Texas this evening to record music in the studio for the weekend, my first time ever working on an actual original album”. It’s really exiting to record music that no one else has ever heard before. These are opportunities that came from the show for sure.
Another thing is that there are foundations that fight against bullying. Being a bullying prevention advocate is a big thing for me, too. It’s not just about representing other burn survivors, but it’s about anyone who’s different, or who looks different, or feels different… It’s about just trying to give them a voice. That’s a huge thing for me, being an advocate against bullying. I’ve been working with an organization called Be Strong, that is really pushing for getting resources for people who encounter bullying or may not know what to do when they see other people being bullied. Those are the three major things that have sprouted since the exposure on America’s Got Talent.
What will you be using the grant money for?
The main thing I am going to use the grant money for is to for music. I have never had the luxury to pour any investment into my music. Honestly, this weekend of recording is happening because of the Anton Yelchin Artist Grant money. Being able to afford the flight down to Austin, then to paying the studio for the recordings, it’s about being able to work with the studio long term and building that relationship. It wouldn’t just be this one time to go to the studio to record, but several times in the future. So, this session has been taken care of because of what I have with the grant. Thank you. I mean really. without the grant I really wouldn’t be going anywhere this weekend. It’s a huge thing that’s happened for me this year. I would have had to postpone everything regarding recording music, and bringing new music out there to anyone who would like to hear it.
Where would you like to be in 4 years?
I would really like to be able to perform a sold-out crowd, singing songs that are my songs, no covers, with songs that are written or co-written by Kechi. That’s my dream. So hopefully that’s where I’d like to be in four or five years. I’m also working on a book as well. Hopefully it would be published by the end of the end of this year as well. I don’t know how it’s going to go, it’s a very gradual working progress because of the content and the sensitivity of it.
Thank you Kechi! What an inspiration you are!