Emily Albert-Stauning's soulful voice and stage presence belie her age. So does her outlook on life.
At just 15 years old, the St. Paul singer and musician is, in her mother Maria's words, a "very old soul" who believes in using one's gifts for the benefit of others.
Emily has staged two concerts to raise money for local charities, working with some big names in the Twin Cities music scene and with young aspiring artists like herself. She is working on obtaining 501(c)(3) status for her fundraising program, which she calls "Hope for a Better Day".
Emily started planning her first benefit concert after feeling that she wanted to do more to help the homeless in her community. That first concert, held at Shamrocks Irish Nook on W. 7th Street in St. Paul, took place on Emily's 13th birthday in 2013. It raised $1,300 for the Family Place, a downtown St. Paul day shelter for the homeless, and more than 400 pounds of food for Second Harvest Heartland. She not only sang, but also organized the concert and coordinated the publicity.
Her second concert, staged this past August at Shamrocks, took in 200 pounds of food for Second Harvest and $1,500 for the Angel Foundation, which provides financial assistance and a free camp for children of cancer patients, according to its corporate and community philanthropy director, Linne Lemke.
Lemke was a little skeptical when Emily and her mother came to visit the charity's Mendota Heights headquarters. Those doubts soon evaporated.
"Once I got to know her, I learned very quickly that she was a very articulate and passionate young woman who was very mature," Lemke said. "I could just see how much she wanted to give back to the community."
Emily began studying and performing in musical theater at age 6. She continues to be active in the theater and plays guitar and performs jazz, pop and indie music around the Twin Cities.
Keyboardist Lawrence Waddell of the Twin Cities R&B group Mint Condition learned of the concert and agreed to help with the concert without knowing much about Emily. After rehearsing Pink's song "Try" with her and finding her "musically amazing," Waddell learned about the fundraiser's beneficiary. His mother had suffered from cancer, and his sister died from it. He was even more impressed.
"She managed the whole thing with such grace," Waddell said. "She was such a professional even at such a young age."
Emily particularly enjoyed working with a group of young talent, including a "girl power group" that she organized and rehearsed with. Helped by jazz legend and friend Patty Peterson and Walker West's executive director, Peter Legget, Emily worked with a group of musicians from Walker West Music Academy. She also gathered donations from local businesses to be used as door prizes.
Emily is already looking for a worthy charity to benefit from her next concert.
"Wanting to give hope, funding and awareness for those in need while inspiring others to use their talents to do the same is the mission for my Hope for a Better Day program," she said. "Music and philanthropy, for me they go hand in hand, and I think they always will."
Nancy Crotti is a freelance writer in St. Paul.