January 24, 2008

A Story of Hope and Survival.......

Natalie Rock, 14, has been singing since she was four-years-old.

She has sung at church, has performed the national anthem at various Flat Rock Middle School events and even performed at the Blind Horse Saloon at age 11.

But now the Saluda resident will be singing at a whole other level. Rock will be auditioning for NBC's hit television show "America's Got Talent" in February.

The Charlotte audition is one that Natalie and her mother, Gina Freeman, have been trying to land for the last year.

Now three applications later, Rock will be singing in front of the judges panel that includes international sensation David Hasselhoff, Sharon Osbourne and British tabloid star Piers Morgan. The show is hosted by Jerry Springer.

"I'm hoping they will like me," Rock said. "I'm not really that nervous. I'm just happy."

For Natalie, however, singing is more than just a hobby.

It's a mechanism for survival.

Natalie, her mom and siblings are all survivors of domestic violence.

"She was always singing," Freeman said. "That's what got her through it. As a family, we're trying to show that you don't lay down and take it."

And then there's the Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) that she had when she was four-weeks-old.

Rock spent 15 weeks in an ICU while living in Waynesville. She stopped breathing twice.

Her mother didn't know where to turn so she called five different churches, hoping that prayer would save her baby's life.

"She's lived through it and now she's a beautiful 14-year-old with an amazing voice," Freeman said.

And as Natalie got older, Freeman could tell that she was drawn to God and the church. It's the motivation behind her desire to sing and be a performer.

"God's given me a talent and I'm going to use it," she said.

She's been using it her entire life. She's surrounded by a family of musicians and singers. Her mom and younger sister, Mariah, play instruments. Her older brothers Alex and Adam play and sing. Her stepfather Steven Freeman plays drums.

"My whole family's about music and that's helped me a lot," Natalie said.

But no matter what happens, Freeman said, she'll be a proud mother when her daughter sings in front of the judges in February.

"I'm proud of her regardless," her mother said. "We were hoping that one day a door will open for her. We don't know if this is it or not, but how often do you get to sing in front of the 'America's Got Talent' judges?"

This is the third season of "America's Got Talent." Rock has a few songs in mind to sing for the audition that include country star Sarah Evans's "Suds in the Bucket" and pop star Christina Aguilera's "Hurt."

Joey Millwood
Sports Editor
Tryon Daily Bulletin
828-859-2737, ext. 110
fax: 828-859-5575

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