Spotlight on the Brown: Singer Melinda Del Toro
Pleasantly overwhelmed with the talent of a 16-year-old singer, model, international performer, and high school sophomore
It's been awhile since we've had a spotlight here on LatinoLA. It hasn't been for lack of talent, that's for sure, as anybody in the Land of 1000 Dances can ascertain, we have some of the best talent in the World.
Published on LatinoLA: June 29, 2006
Indeed, my busy schedule with producing 3 radio shows, attending and participating in live shows, traveling, working a full time job, and squeezing in some family time and an occasional piece on LatinoLA has left me little time to visit and interview somebody new for the Gente's review.
As I am frequently approached or contacted by somebody about new talent, and receive gifts of published and demo CD's every week in the mail, I find myself sometimes pleasantly overwhelmed with the talent from Mi Gente, but short on time, and sometimes missing out on a diamond in the rough.
This month, however, because of the preserverance of a loving family, the support of my good friends in the music business, and some real talent that I almost missed, LatinoLA is proud to shine the spotlight on a young CHICANA that you will be hearing about in the future...my new friend, singer MELINDA DEL TORO of Buena Park, California.
Only 16 years old, Melinda has already "wowed" crowds at venues like the Plaza Mexico in Lynwood, the Norwalk Ramada Inn, and most recently at the Pico Rivera Sports Arena, with her beauty, stage presence, and singing voice.
Easily ranging from Ranchera & Mariachi, to R & B to Soul to Latin Rock, Melinda credits her father for her early musical inspiration, and her close-knit family for giving her love and strong encouragement.
"I come from a large, proud family whose roots are from Mexico. Even though I was born in La Palma, California, my father, uncles, and aunts all sang or played instruments and raised me on Mexican Mariachi and Ranchera music ever since I can remember, always inviting me to sing, and encouraging me every step of the way, even when I wanted to sing R & B instead of traditional music I was raised on. My parents and sisters come to all my performances, and when I see them out in the audience with tears of pride in their eyes while I'm up on stage...I just want to cry and sing my heart out just for them. Singing makes me happy that I make everybody around me happy, especially my family. I love singing and I love my family."
That love came to people's attention when Melinda was only 3 years old, and pretty much established her as a prodigy.
"Even though I hadn't had any formal singing training, at age 3, I was singing full songs with my Dad, entertaining family members," Melinda recalls. "My older sister was 15 at the time and was starting out as a teen-age model for a small agency my Mom helped out with. During an Agency public event, for some reason, the hosts started inviting members of the attending crowd if anybody wanted to come up and sing. Well, the crowd was sure shocked when this 3 year old little girl strutted up there and sang the complete 'Nieves de Enero' in accapella . After that, it was on! I knew then I wanted to be a singer."
Melinda also credits her sister Marisol as one of her biggest supporters and fan, and her most ardent promoter. "My sister is always looking for talent shows, public invitations and open mic sessions for me to perform at. Her and my Mom are my agents, and they do all my contacts and business deals. She has got me into places I'm not even old enough to get into, but she's got me there, and I love her for it. She's the reason I've had any success at all, and I will never be able to thank her enough...just for being my sister and looking out for me."
As a matter of fact, it was Marisol that had contacted me about 6 months ago telling me about Melinda. At the time, my good friends the SATISFACTION Band were having weekly open mic jam sessions at the Norwalk Ramada Inn and I directed Marisol to them. Having seen some video clips of Melinda in action on her website, Chris Reserva & Jimmy Silva graciously invited her to come join them for a song or 2 at future jam sessions.
Not knowing of the hook up, my Lady & I, accompanied by THEE MIDNITERS original drummer George Salazar (who also jammed that night with SATISFACTION) and his wife Lisa, sat with East L.A. Chicano Music veterans Willie & Susan Mondragon and a number of other well known L.A. Chicano musicians and honchos to settle in for a night of SATISFACTION & friends at a packed house.
I was pleasantly suprised when lead singers Robert Benavides and Natali Renee invited this unknown kid named Melinda Del Toro on stage in the middle of the show for an unrehearsed jam. Knowing that even the most seasoned veterans miss a beat once in awhile when there's been little or no rehearsal, I anticipated something "cute & clumsy" from this 16 year old kid.
Needless to say, there was nothing clumsy evident as Melinda made her L.A. Night Club debut with SATISFACTION in style, looking gorgeous and belting out a powerful SELENA medley that brought her a standing ovation. I was impressed, and had to call some friends to let them know there's a new kid on the block.
A couple of months later, while planning and preparing a show at the Pico Rivera Sports Arena, I was again contacted by Melinda's sister Marisol, who had informed me that Melinda had been featured on the cover of a magazine as a model, and had just been invited to perform at the Latin Summer Festival in Canada in August. (That's right! Canada!) She had e-mailed me to thank me for introducing her to SATISFACTION, who had told her that they wanted to invite Melinda back for another performance. In response, I invited her to my upcoming show, and suggested she meet my friend & agent Steven Chavez of RAMPART RECORDS, who is always on the hunt for new and upcoming talent, and who was stage-managing the show that night.
Arriving to the arena mid-show, Melinda, Marisol, and their mother Martha came backstage to meet us at the perfect time. Introducing themselves and giving us copies of the magazine in which Melinda is a cover model, I told them we were in a bit of a snag as one of our acts didn't show up, and we had some open time at the last second that we worried about what to do with while the bands changed over. Luckily, Melinda's Mom had some cover music to the song "Hero" in her purse when I asked if she could sing a song and help me out. She easily agreed. When I brought this to Steven Chavez's attention, he asked me "Can she really sing as good as you say?". Just by seeing my smile, Steven gave Melinda just 5 minutes to get ready to come out on the open arena stage and sing.
When home~girl strutted all of her 16 years up on the stage after I introduced her, I was seized with a momentary feeling of guilt that I had set up an untested young girl in front of an arena audience to entertain them unrehearsed.
(Oh God... please don't let her choke, I thought!)
Steven and I exchanged worried glances for about 5 seconds until Melinda broke out with a beautiful, sunshine smile and confidently addressed the crowd with "How you all doing?". When she began to sing, her dynamic stage performance and her powerful yet angelic voice just stole the moment! From the arena floor I could see the moist tears of pride in her Mother's and sister's eyes, and the huge grin on Steven's face as Melinda received a roaring applause as her song ended...that was a moment!
All Steven Chavez could say at the end was "Wow!...did you hear that kid Melinda sing? I'm impressed! Get her number!"...
So what's next for Melinda Del Toro... singer, model, international performer, and John F. Kennedy High School sophmore from La Palma, California?
"Well, first of all, my parents want me to finish high school and seriously look into college, which I think is a pretty good idea. I love family, and I love kids, but I won't be ready for that for a long, long time. I want to continue singing, continue my formal singing lessons, and hopefully hook up with a good band that needs a bi-lingual, Latina lead singer that has the vocal range and the ganas to take it to the top. I would like to travel and hopefully record an R & B album...I'm having fun and my whole family is behind me 110%".
With that kind of confidence and support, with beauty, talent, a great attitude, and an unlimited future before her, LatinoLA takes pride in welcoming MELINDA DEL TORO to the Land of 1000 Dances, in the heart of Aztlan...look out World, here she comes!
?Si se puede, Carnalita! See you again real soon! Make us proud in Canada!
Note: for more info on MELINDA DEL TORO, check out her website at:
...and tell her you heard it from Frankie Firme & LatinoLA.com!
Frankie Firme is the Al Capone of the microphone & the Hitman of West Coast Chicano Soul.