Natasha Zimbaro flies to Toronto Monday for what she hopes will be the official launch of her career as a pop singer and songwriter.
The 19-year-old Silver Valley native has spent the past six years of her life, dreaming of and working tirelessly towards this goal.
Just four weeks away from finishing her masters certificate in music business, she's joined a new band called Bangarang and is heading to Ontario for two weeks of back-to-back business meetings aimed at rocketing the new group into the North American music scene.
Admittedly, Zimbaro said, she wasn't looking to join a band. But out of the blue this summer, two Langley men (temporary Toronto transplants) Dustin Overhill and Mark Luongo, called asking
her to audition for their new band - which performs a mix of pop and hip-hop music that she can only compare to the Black Eyed Peas sound.
She spent the better part of three years being mentored and managed by Canadian country music singer Jason McCoy, and working with EMI Canada.
Just prior to the release of her first country single, Zimbaro (then 15) turned away from a potential career in country music in favour of a solo career in pop.
"Country is great, but it just wasn't the right direction for me. It was a big decision for me," she reflected. Likewise, Zimbaro was a little hesitant about joining the Bangarang.
But meeting with "the boys," performing with them, and doing some songwriting together, Zimbaro said it quickly became apparent the trio was a perfect fit.
They'd been hunting for a female vocalist for a year, and shared Zimbaro's optimism.
"They were kind of sent to me at the right time,"
she told The TIMES, adding: "I'm really pumped about the way things are going."
Zimbaro finds it bit ironic that she's making this leap on the heels of meeting up with her friend and music industry mentor - McCoy - a country music star who's in Maple Ridge Saturday to perform an intimate concert at The ACT.
In fact, she's excited to share her news with McCoy.
"I owe everything to Jason because he's made me into the artist I am today," she said. "He's been the greatest mentor and friend to me."
Zimbaro was two when she took up dance with Maple Ridge Dance Circle, and was on stage by age four. At about age 11, she made the leap to community theatre getting her first role as Jane flying around the stage in Peter Pan.
"I was always a shy kid growing up. I think theatre allowed me to break free."
That she did, announcing to anyone who would listen that she would always be on stage and that one day make it big as a singer.
A determined young woman, Zimbaro has been working towards that goal ever since.
In the past few years, she's been focusing on her studies and singing national anthems at five or six sporting events a week, including the Canucks, Lions, and Whitecap games.
"It keeps your confidence up when you're not performing regularly," she explained.
Even though she was born and has grown up in Maple Ridge - attending MRSS through Grade 10 before switching to homeschooling to allow her to focus on her career - she said few people locally know she's worked with one of the world's largest record labels or that she landed a spot in the top 16 women in last year's X-Factor.
She was visiting family in England last year, and as a British citizen she decided to audition for Simon Cowell's U.K. version of the talent show.
Three auditions later, she was back in England, attending a bootcamp at Cowell's mansion.
"It was really a surreal experience," Zimbaro said, noting she was cut just before the first live show. "It gave me an amazing experience."
While she's had some incredible experiences so far in her career, Zimbaro said she's in a "great place now" excited about what her future will bring.
Canadian country music's Jason McCoy, who mentored Natasha Zimbaro, is reuniting with his young protege this weekend.
See story on page A6.