Katie Kadan almost didn't audition for 'The Voice.' Now the singer is the front-runner to win the show

Tracy Swartz, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Entertainment News

CHICAGO -- Katie Kadan almost didn't audition for "The Voice." The Chicago singer said a representative for the NBC network show reached out to her via Instagram to try out for Season 17, but Kadan wasn't initially interested.

"My first response was, 'No, thank you.' Competition is not my thing," Kadan, 38, told the Tribune by phone. Then the Summit native reconsidered. "I'm like, you know what? I just kind of need to push all that competition thoughts out of my mind. This might be a really good opportunity, and I'm so glad that I did."

Now Kadan is one of four finalists vying to win Season 17. The two-part finale is scheduled to kick off at 8 p.m. EST Monday. Kadan told the Tribune that she will sing three songs Monday, but she would not reveal any performance details, only that her songs are "going to be awesome." Viewers vote for the winner, who is set to be revealed Tuesday.

Kadan also had not yet picked her finale outfits when she talked to the Tribune. Chances are they will be bold, like most of her "Voice" wardrobe. Her ensemble usually features a head wrap, which is a nod to her Palestinian heritage, and funky glasses, which are reminiscent of the ones she wore as a home-schooled teen -- until kids made fun of her.

The Jefferson Park neighborhood resident has been a fan favorite since she turned the chairs of all four celebrity coaches with her performance of Aretha Franklin's "Baby I Love You" on "The Voice" premiere in September. She selected John Legend as her mentor and continued to wow the coaches and fans with her soulful voice and colorful stage presence.

She enters the finale as the front-runner -- a major confidence boost for someone who grew up shy, insecure and afraid to fail.

"I thought maybe I could be on the show, make it for a couple of rounds possibly. I actually thought I'd most definitely get voted out. You know, just the nature of the show. So many talented singers go home. You never know what they're looking for, but I thought maybe it would be a great platform to gain some more exposure because I've been called the best-kept secret in Chicago. I was tired of that. I wanted people to know me," Kadan said.

Kadan could become the first Chicagoan to win "The Voice." The winner is slated to receive a recording contract. Before she joined "The Voice," Kadan considered returning to college to study psychology "because I ultimately love to help people."

She's a vocal coach, piano instructor and professional musician who started playing Chicago clubs about eight years ago (she was a frequent performer at the now-closed Underground Wonder Bar in River North). She said she loves living in Chicago, but hasn't ruled out moving to Los Angeles for her career and the sunshine.


She called her experience on "The Voice" "the ride of my life."

Ashleigh Gocong, who worked with Kadan at the School of Rock Chicago's Lakeview location, said she has been rooting for Kadan every week on "The Voice."

"I knew she had a great voice, but I think it was about, probably six to eight months of us working together before I actually made it out to see one of her performances, and the first time I actually saw her perform and be up on stage, like goosebumps, literally," Gocong said.

"And so many of us (had) major goosebumps every time she performed. I was like, 'Whoa. I knew you were good, but I had no idea what you're like when you're on stage.' To see that and witness it is magic. It's always been like that. We're all like, 'Why aren't you famous? How are you not famous by now?'"

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