Singer-Songwriter-Student Takes Time to Give

Michael Konigsberg
El Vaquero Staff Writer

Kyle Vincent has kept the faith, lost sleep, and struggled with school to realize his dream to sing. Now he gets more than any of us bargained for: a reason to be heard.

But when singer-songwriter and Glendale College student Vincent produced a song to benefit the children of the victims of Sept. 11 he never dreamed it would touch so many.

On that new day of infamy, Vincent was preparing to give an on-air interview on B107.3, the most popular radio station in Lincoln, Neb., when all the equipment failed.

To cope with his shock, he sat at his piano; “5,000 Heroes” was born 30 minutes later. He spent the next week skipping math homework, and missing sleep in his dedication to finish the composition, which, Vincent says, opens up the preciousness of life. “That is the best lesson that we’ve taken from this horrific event,” he says.

“Heroes” found a home on a compilation CD that benefits the newly established Families of Freedom Scholarship Fund with 100 percent of the proceeds. The fund is chaired by former President Clinton and former Sen. Bob Dole.

The song has become No. 1 in Lincoln, and has helped the CD to raise over $50,000 for scholarships for children of the victims. Following the success of his effort, Vincent is slated to perform “Heroes” at a number of benefit concerts.

Vincent’s deep love for music began as early as he could create it. He wrote his first lyrics when he was 5 years old, and, at 8, began to take up panoply of instruments from alto saxophone and guitar to piano and percussion, accompanying his singing voice when possible. He joined a grunge-pop band like Green Day, and later went solo with MCA.

“Music has always been my savior,” Vincent says. “I didn’t have the most perfect childhood, but music was always there. It still saves me.”

Even after a number of setbacks, he maintained vision and gleaned new hope with a self-titled album and the release of his own SongTree label’s “Wow & Flutter.” In 1997, his cathartic single “Wake Me Up (When the World’s Worth Waking Up For)” went to the Top 20 on the Billboard Adult Alternative chart. Since then, Vincent has enjoyed the company on tour of headlining artists Bryan Adams, 10,000 Maniacs, and Ziggy Marley, among others.

The role of music as salvation and happy distraction shadowed Vincent through most of his schooling. After enrolling at UC Berkeley at 17, he would only cut class to go play piano at his grandmother’s house.

“I wasn’t ready for college,” Vincent says. “Now I am. I love the energy of learning.” Since returning to school at GCC 13 years later, he has a new appreciation for the discipline of education, even conquering his dislike of math with relish.

It may jar him to rush into class to discuss quadratic equations after a weekend of out-of-town gigs, but he loves coming to understand algebra without an allergic reaction – thanks, he says, to his “inimitable” Professor George Tangalos.

“Heroes” is typical of Vincent’s popular balladic style, “dripping with melody,” just like he likes it. He admits it may be “un-hip;” regardless, he prides himself on his grand pop craft, with lyric and chorus and all.

He says he has always been idealistic about nature and brotherhood, but is so now with a new and daily vitality.

“We’ve memorialized the event, we’ve mourned our losses, and now we must live our lives. I’m most proud of what began as me just sitting down at my little piano, turning it into a song that has seemingly helped a lot of people deal with their feelings. That’s truly incredible to me.”
Kyle Vincent performs at 8 p.m. Saturday at Kulak’s Woodshed at 5230ยด Laurel Canyon Blvd. in North Hollywood. It is free to students.

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