VACAVILLE — Holly Stell grew up in the spotlight.
By the time she was a teen, she had sung three times for President George W. Bush and recorded a duet with Andrea Bocelli.
She stayed in a Paris apartment while filming a PBS special and was featured on “Oprah” and “Entertainment Tonight.”
Next month, Stell turns 22 and embarks on a new adventure, an internship with The City Church in Los Angeles. The volunteer post has her working in Skid Row, an area of downtown Los Angeles that has many homeless residents.
It also includes foreign mission work. Stell has her heart set on Uganda as she feels a pull to be in Africa. The other options she has are the Dominican Republic or the Philippines.
An encounter with a friend a few months ago convinced her it was the right time to make the move. Ciara Foquiel served at The City Church when she finished high school, Stell said.
“I saw such a change in her,” Stell said. “She was more mature. She was always vibrant and joyful. I saw that she was very confident in who she was as a person.”
Stell liked what she saw and thought the experience of serving others would benefit her, too.
“I thrived off reassurance from the public eye and how loud the applause was,” she said. “That was my validation.”
About a year ago, Stell began working with special needs adults through Dungarvin, a national organization of privately owned properties serving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
The young woman has always given back to Solano County, even singing at the memorial service for slain Fairfield City Councilman Matt Garcia. Now, she’s giving back on a one-on-one level, from helping load wheelchairs in vans to helping with hygienic needs.
“This is much more than I thought,” she said. “It’s so rewarding.”
It’s a vast difference from her past employment in a salon and for a cosmetic company.
After finishing high school, Stell headed to Azusa Pacific University. It was rough, she said. Her family and music were in the Solano County area. She was in Southern California.
She returned home after one year and attended Solano Community College, taking acting classes from George Maguire. Stell appeared in some local benefit shows and Solano College Theatre productions.
Singing was, and will, remain her first love, she said.
“I have no Plan B,” Stell said. “I don’t know what else I want to do. I know I need to sing, that’s my calling. It would feel wrong to do anything else.”
Stell hopes to be part of the The City Church’s music ministry.
As she heads off to Southern California again, Stell will release a new single, “White Lighter,” based on an urban legend surrounding the deaths of Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain. The legend says all four rock stars were found to have had white lighters in their pockets at the time of their death.
A friend was dying when Stell wrote it.
“I was going through a lot,” she said. “The song is really close to my heart.”
Stell will perform Sunday at Community United Methodist Church. The program will focus on classical music and feature Bonnie Langdon, who served as the church’s music director for years, and is one of Stell’s musical mentors.
Singing with Stell will be Jenny Hillebert, a Dungarvin client who has performed locally. They will perform Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile” as a duet. Hillebert will sing “My Heart Will Go On” as a solo.
Reach Amy Maginnis-Honey at 427-6957 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/amaginnisdr.