As a kindergartener at Berwyn’s Jefferson Elementary School, Daniela Reyes took center stage during the annual talent show and unleashed “This is Me,” a pile-driving belter from Disney’s “Camp Rock.” Roughly a decade later, she’s embodying the song’s ode to following your dreams.
Reyes, 16, is one of 35 high school students named to Chicago’s 2018 Rising Star Honor Roll. The award lauds youth from a variety of disciplines for exceptional talent and leadership abilities. A junior at the Chicago High School for the Arts (ChiArts), Reyes supplements a fully loaded academic schedule with upward of 20 hours a week of voice, acting and dance lessons. She has countless public performances and six years of serious vocal training to her credit, but news of the award initially left Reyes almost speechless.
YAS! Fest When: 11 a.m. – 7:30 p.m. Sept. 22 Where: Pritzker Pavilion, Millennium Park, 201 E. Randolph Tickets: Free
“My reaction was, Oh my God, it was supercalifragilisticexpialidocious! I actually looked that word up. It’s the word you say when you don’t know what or how to say what you’re feeling,” she said of the term made famous in a song from the 1964 Disney film “Mary Poppins.”
As a Rising Star, Reyes is a part of Chicago’s Youth Art Showcase (YAS! Fest), a massive, day-long event Sept. 22 in Millennium Park and venues throughout the Loop, celebrating young artists. The festival includes hundreds of young performers fueling pop-up radio shows, exhibits, DIY art stations and a sprawling array of dance, music and vocal concerts. It culminates in a performance by teenage hip-hip phenom Desiigner.
Reyes’ longtime voice teacher A. J. Wester estimates that Reyes has a range spanning more than three octaves (about two octaves more than that of most mortals) and is equally deft in opera and musical theater. But Reyes has more than range. “The first time I heard her sing, I could hear the presence in her voice. That’s something a lot of people — especially if they’re younger — don’t always have,” Wester said. “I always say talent is equal parts discipline and ability. Daniela has both.”
Reyes credits her work ethic to an upbringing steeped in Mexican culture.
“I consider myself Mexican-American even though I wasn’t born in Mexico,” Reyes said. “My culture, the ideals it includes, that’s part of me. Things like, you’ve got to respect your Mom and Dad. You have to be a role model. And always, you have to work hard, give 110 percent, no matter what you do.”
Reyes also is a big fan of mariachi. It’s a genre she loves sharing, be it at the Sociedad Civica Mexicana’s celebration of Benito Juarez Day or at ChiArts’ annual Hispanic Showcase. “Mariachi songs are usually about pain or heartbreak.That intensity, it reminds me of opera,” she said.
While some vocalists ration their singing, Reyes has a hard time holding back. “I sing along to almost everything,” she said. “[But] I’m not completely out of control. When in event is coming up I drink my tea, and citrus drinks, take my vitamins. [My voice], it’s my instrument. I need it.”
For all her early success, Reyes’ isn’t immune to insecurity. “Everybody puts themselves in a box sometimes,” she said. “When I started high school, my box was self-doubt and insecurity. I had to pull myself out of that. Which I did, mostly, by working hard.”
“If you love something, you have to go for it,” she added. “If something brings you joy, you have to make sure it’s in your life. Otherwise, who are you?”
For information about the YAS! Fest, visit the event website.
This profile is part of a series underwritten byAllstateas part of its commitment to support young artists in Chicago and to empower the next generation of rising stars.