16-year-old Maddie Georgi gets her name out the old-fashioned way: paying dues 

Hampton high school student Maddie Georgi, who has a penchant for belting national anthems at sports events, could very well be the North Hills' next Christina Aguilera. But instead of lip-synching to other people's programmed dance beats while sporting an exposed midriff, this 16-year-old girl is writing and performing her own songs.

Maddie discovered music by participating in theater productions. She polished her style with a lot of karaoke, particularly Sheryl Crow and Britney Spears selections, and at the age of 14, won the Kean Idol contest, a benefit for free care at the St. Barnabas Health System. "Out of that," Maddie recalls, "I got studio recording time at Audible Images and used it to record my first original song, 'Take My Hand.'"

That song was dedicated to her brother Jake, who is autistic. She donated the tune to AutismLink (www.autismlinkstore.com), where it's available for $2 per download, and also appears regularly at Autism Walks in Pittsburgh and Ohio. That would be inspirational enough, but then Georgi kept writing songs, developing a set she could play out, as well as covers by the likes of K.T. Tunstall.

Pittsburgh doesn't offer many underage venues for a precocious teen-age pop songstress. But Maree Gallagher of TR Creative Services, active in the singer-songwriter scene, searched out stages for Georgi: She's since played restaurants, benefits and coffeehouses, as well as the occasional slot at an adult venue such as Club Café.

Georgi's name became better known when a submission to the CMT Music Madness online contest unexpectedly garnered her second place out of thousands of national entrants. "I'm not really a country singer, but I submitted a video of one of my country-sounding songs called 'Gone Away.' There was no prize for second, but I did get a ton of new friends and plays on MySpace."

Now, Georgi's hosting an open stage at North Hills Borders on first Thursdays of each month (the next is 7 p.m. March 5). The event plays to all of her skills and strengths: featured performer, stage manager, mistress of ceremonies. "The first time we did it, it was a repeat of our school talent show, but then at the past one, we had all these people who didn't even tell me they were coming."

The open stage works well as an outlet to reach a younger audience, but she has no aspirations of meteoric fame a la American Idol, even though she could be another Carrie Underwood. "I like what I'm doing right now -- I keep practicing every day, but there's no pressure and I'm getting all the performing experience I can. You've gotta pay your dues."

Find Georgi's music at www.myspace.com/maddiegeorgi



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