Desiree Dillon was five years old when she first discovered her gift.
Today her dream is to share that gift - the gift of her voice - with the world.
This July, the 06' Miami High School grad will bid farewell to all things familiar and go make that dream a reality in the Big Apple.
Before she leaves, however, Dillon is saying goodbye to her hometown in her own way.
At 2:30 p.m. Sunday, she will give a concert performance at the historic Coleman Theatre in downtown Miami. Admission is by donation only - a little start up money to help cover living expenses in New York City.
Mostly, it's a music theatre concert - Broadway and other show tunes with a couple of opera pieces thrown in. She will be accompanied on piano by Tulsa University vocal music coach Brady McElligot.
The whole performance should last about an hour, according to Dillon.
“It won't be very long, because I know how people like their Sunday nap - hopefully, they won't be doing that during the concert, though.” Dillon joked.
Afterward there will be a reception to celebrate the launching of her life's career.
But this isn't just some half-thought-out pipe dream. Dillon actually has four separate interviews set up with casting agencies that called her - and not the other way around.
“Opportunity awaits,” Dillon said. “And I'm really excited. We'll see what happens.”
Last May, she earned her bachelor's degree in vocal performance/musical theatre from Oklahoma City University. The very next day she and 10 other students that had been hand picked by a nationally-recognized casting director flew to New York City to showcase their vocal talents in front of an audience of other directors and agency reps. Afterward, she was told which agencies wanted her resume and head shot. She wasn't back home very long before her phone started ringing.
If Dillon signs with an agency she will most likely be promoted as a singer/actress/dancer to Broadway and/or other acts, such as regional theatres, traveling Broadway shows or possibly even television roles on occasion.
“A lot of Broadway stars have done 'Law and Order' because shows like that need new people every episode - new victims, new criminals - and that would be really fun,” she said. “But the (agencies) I'm meeting with are primarily concerned with music, theatre and stage, wherever that may be.”
Dillon remembers the very day she found the talent God gave her. She was in kindergarten and it was music hour.
“I realized I was singing on pitch and all the other kids were yelling around me,” Dillon related. “And I was like 'huh.' I also remember I had no shame in singing out and the other kids were moving away from me.”
Not long after, she landed a solo in the kids choir at church. Her parents didn't tell a lot of people about it, Dillon laughed, because they had never really heard her sing and didn't know if they should prepare to be embarrassed or what. But then they were a little surprised to find out their daughter could actually carry a tune at five years old.
At age six, Dillon auditioned for and got a part in a Miami Little Theatre production of “Oliver”, in which her father, Danny Dillon, was playing “Fagan.” She played an orphan.
It was the beginning of her life on the stage.
The night before she left for college, Dillon played “Dorothy” in Miami Little Theatre's musical production of “Wizard of Oz” (fitting since Dillon had associated herself with Dorothy since she was a little girl and still has a Judy Garland fixation.)
“I remember thinking, 'Ok, I can do it here in my little home town of Miami, but I can do it somewhere else? Is somebody else going to think I'm good?” Dillon said.
That's what Dillon is going to New York to find out.
In some ways, though, that question has already been answered.
She had the option of attending grad school at the rather prestigious Boston Conservatory, a private music school, where she had been accepted. She had tough decision to make. Grad school or New York? But then she was placed in the vocal music program at Boston Conservatory instead of opera, which she had auditioned for, and she took it as a sign.
“I wasn't upset about not being placed in opera, it was an honor just to be accepted, but I felt like it just wasn't time yet,” Dillon said. “I felt it was the green light to go to New York and audition there.”
Though she leaves in less than a month, at times this all still feels like a dream to her, as if can't be real. Life just doesn't work out this way.
Or does it?
“I'm bewildered that this is even happening because it's something I've thought about all my life,” Dillon said. “I remember walking around New York, dropping off my headshot and resume with the casting directors, and thinking 'I am so blessed to have this opportunity.”
Is she excited? Of course. But is she also scared? Of course.
“Sure, it's scary but it's not scary enough to keep me here,” Dillon said. “Because I know that what I'm looking for isn't here anymore. This will always be home but it's not where I'm going to be able to do everything that I want to do. And I'm not going to know whether or not I can pursue this dream if I don't go and at least try.”
Desiree Dillon is the daughter of Danny and Vonda Dillan.