Emily Buckley, editor in chief
15-YEAR-OLD North Logan teen, Kenadi Dodds, has been singing and performing for as long as she can remember. Her parents recall her singing Shania Twain songs “on tune without missing a note” from her car seat and selling tickets to puppet shows as a preschooler. When she was 9 her grandmother took her to a Shania Twain concert, after which she set her sights on becoming a big star.
“I remember watching a documentary about Taylor Swift’s Journey to Fearless tour,” Kenadi said. “There was a part where she sold out Madison Square Garden before she was 20 years old. I looked at my dad and said, ‘I’m going to do that … I’m going to sell out Madison Square Garden before I am 20, too.’”
Kenadi has diligently been chasing her dream for most of her life: taking voice and guitar lessons, practicing faithfully, and writing songs with her dad, Chris Dodds. Some opportunities have opened up for Kenadi as she was invited to sing the national anthem at Utah State University sporting events, Utah Jazz and Salt Lake Bees games, and even opening for The Swon Brothers, who gained their fame on NBC’s The Voice, but her biggest break yet came after auditioning for NBC’s America’s Got Talent (AGT) this year.
Her preliminary audition for season 15 of AGT was in January. After auditioning for two previous seasons of the acclaimed televised talent show to no avail, Kenadi wasn’t sure what to expect, but she gave it her all. In February
she learned she would get to perform for the first time for the celebrity judges and anxiously prepared an original song she wrote with her dad entitled “One Way Ticket to Tennessee.”
As the day approached, cities across the country were beginning to be affected by the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. “I found out I wasn’t going to be performing in front of a live audience, which was a little disappointing, and then we were told my mom and sisters weren’t going to be able to be there,” Kenadi said.
She was disappointed, especially since one of her driving forces was to perform on the ‘big stage’ for her 9-year-old sister Alexis, who suffers, along with her parents, from Retinitis Pigmentosa, a genetic eye disease that causes vision loss.
“I wanted to perform for Alexis before it was too late for her to see me — we had been dreaming of this day forever,” Kenadi said. “At the last second they were invited to come. Then, the fact there wasn’t an audience didn’t matter because I was just glad to have them there.”
The celebrity judges loved Kenadi’s performance. Simon Cowell, the show’s producer, said, “Your voice sounds as if you were from Nashville when you sing. I love artists, particularly people your age, who know what kind of lane they want to go down. You know where you want to go, and I think we can help you get there.” “I feel like doors are opening,” Kenadi said. “As long as I keep working and keep God with me, I can go anywhere I want to go.
Kenadi learned she had made it past the next round of cuts for the show in late July and traveled with her dad to California to prepare for the quarterfinals.
“They have spent a lot of time in their hotel room, preparing for the show, writing music, and doing her schoolwork,” Kenadi’s mom, Brandi Dodds, said. “Although there have been a lot of safety precautions because of COVID that have made the experience different than what she dreamed of, Kenadi has really not had any time to be bored and is having an amazing experience.”
Brandi, who is blind, says it has been sad not to be able to be there with Kenadi, especially since she experiences many things through touch. “I wish I could be there to feel her dresses and hair,” she said. “Still though, this has been an awesome experience for all of us.”
After months of waiting for her chance to perform again, Kenadi sang another original song during the AGT
quarterfinals on September 1. Her song, “Dancing Through the Stars,” was dedicated to Alexis and the performance was recorded on the Universal Studios backlot.
After the performance aired, judge Heidi Klum told Kenadi, “I do believe Music Row — which I know you want — I know they are going to call for you.” The next day Kenadi learned, on live television, that viewers had voted for her to
move on to the semifinal round of AGT, which will air this month on NBC.
She thanked those who had voted for her in a Facebook Live video after the show. “Thank you so much … I am truly so grateful. I want to make you guys proud next round, so I am going to get right to work.”
Tune in to AGT on NBC on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings at 7 p.m.