Minnesota teen's music video on Oprah's Web site
Kalee Guenther doesn't need to picture her audience in their underwear. That would just make her laugh. Besides, when she gets up on stage or in front of a crowd of people, she's completely at ease.
"I like the fact that I can express myself through music," said the 15-year-old singer/songwriter. "I think it's cool that I can project that in front of an audience and not be afraid."
Guenther, the daughter of Kevin and Jen Guenther of Alexandria, discovered the natural musician within when she was about 10 years old.
"I was always seeing people on TV playing guitar," she said. "I was like, wow! I want to do that."
When her grandma gave her a guitar and lessons for her 11th birthday, she was on her way. Even though the first few lessons were more difficult than she thought, it wasn't long before the guitar became her calling. The more she played, the more she wanted to play.
Guenther started learning cover songs and playing in talent shows at school. The more she played, the more her confidence grew.
"I could do this as a life choice, as a career," she remembers thinking.
Along with her guitar and singing skills improving, Guenther's love of writing lyrics blossomed.
"I had always written lyrics, but I didn't know how to piece together the music," she said. "I started getting more and more into it."
The high school freshman has written dozens of songs over the years, about 10 that she has fully mastered and recorded, and several that are works in progress.
"I can't really control when I'm going to write," she explained. "I can't be like, I'm going to write a song. I have to wait for it to come to me."
Guenther has performed in two talent shows at Discovery Middle School in Alexandria and at the Alexandria Arts Association Theater's Teen Talent Showcase, along with the Jingle Bells Telethon and other local music venues.
Last spring, she was featured on Z99 Radio's local artist spotlight, singing two of her original songs, You Bring Me to My Knees and Without You. After that performance, the songs were recorded and have since earned airtime on the radio station.
This past fall, Guenther sent in a video of her performance of You Bring Me to My Knees to a kids' talent contest sponsored by the Oprah Winfrey Show. Her video was one of about 50 that have so far been posted to Oprah's Web site.
"Oprah called and said, 'Hey girl, you're on the Web site,' " Guenther joked, admitting it was really Oprah's "people" who called.
She has also sent in the performance to the TV show America's Got Talent, but hasn't heard back yet. And Twin Cities Live asked her to perform on their show after proud mom, Jen, had forwarded a performance posted on her daughter's Myspace Web page. Unfortunately, it was too short notice and the Guenthers couldn't make it.
But there will most likely be more opportunities in the teen's future. Her plans include attending a four-year college, doing "something with music, most likely."
"Music is not about how you're dressing, or how your hair looks. It's about the music, and people who have enough guts to put all they have into their music," she concluded. "I'd much rather be doing something I love and not making much money, than doing something I hate and making a fortune."