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Waukegan student wins national singing competition while studying at CLC

by Public Relations and Marketing | Published Dec 14, 2020

Imagine being flown to Los Angeles and working every day from seven in the morning to ten at night while trying to squeeze in a college class. That’s exactly what 21-year-old Francisco (Danny) Rea experienced during the month of November while studying at College of Lake County (CLC). What’s more, Rea has been declared one of five winners on Estrella TV’s “Tengo Talento, Mucho Talento.” It’s a dream come true for the Waukegan-based musician whose singing career began long before his appearance on the competition. 

Photo of Danny Rea“I actually started singing ever since I could talk, especially the music of Los Tigres Del Norte,” said Rea (right). “I grew up listening to all the music my grandpa and dad listened to. When I was in middle school and high school everyone was listening to rap and pop and I was doing my own thing with Regional Mexican music.” 

At the age of 11, Rea began performing around the Waukegan community at restaurants, karaoke competitions, festivals and charity events put on by the city, which is known for its rich cultural history and support of the arts. His first break came a year or two later on a different televised singing competition.

Photos Credit: Estrella Media / Kevin Selinger

“I was on a version of The Voice, but for kids on Telemundo. I didn’t go far in that show but after that I really started performing,” said Rea. “More people wanted to book me for private events and festivals. Then I started my YouTube channel. From there I’ve had a lot of opportunities with big artists.” 

Photo of Danny ReaOver the next eight years, Rea continued to perform while working his way through middle school, high school and eventually into college at CLC. His ultimate goal was to make it big in music, but at the same time he was realistic about those prospects. 

“It’s a tough business and there was a chance I wouldn’t make it,” said Rea. “I was going to get an associate degree in business administration to have something to fall back on while I was focusing on my music, but I liked that I could always transfer to a four-year university if it wasn’t going my way.”  

Photo of Danny ReaEven when it came time to audition for Tengo Talento, Mucho Talento he wasn’t confident about his chances. Why, you ask? 

“This was actually the fourth time I had auditioned for the show and the previous three times they said no. I was 14, then 17, then 19 and then this year I wasn’t going to audition. I was like, what’s the point,” said Rea. “My dad was the one who kept insisting.” 

So, he sent in one of his YouTube videos. It was apparently well received as soon after, he got a call to do a live, virtual audition.  

Photo of Danny Rea“They told me they’d call me within three weeks, and they called me within three days. They asked if I could fly out to LA,” said Rea. 

Meanwhile his Managerial Communication class at CLC continued. “He kept up with most of the work, until the last two weeks with the semi-finals,” said Teresa Bruchsaler, course professor and adjunct faculty member in administrative management and technology. “He even gave a group presentation from his hotel room right before doing promos for the show. He was dedicated and working hard. My class and I are very excited for him.” 

The 23rd season of the singing competition concluded Nov. 25 with the announcement of five winners; a first for the long-running show. As one of the winners, Rea shares in a $100,000 grand prize, a Sony Music Latin recording deal and becomes a founding member of Nuevo Elemento which is formed by the five winners. One day later the new group released their first official single: No Andes Con Nadie

Photo of Danny Rea“I guess you could say we’re pioneers with this boy band concept in Regional Mexican,” said Rea. “The first single is with mariachi but we’re going to do different sub-genres like Banda, Corridos, Norteño, Campirano and we’re going to sing everything. We’re all different in our voices, we all have different capacities, so someone can sing Corridos, someone can sing the ballads and so on.”  

Rea expects the group’s next two songs to premiere in the next couple months. Though his future is focused on music, he won’t forget his past and the path CLC was helping him to walk. 

“I’m really grateful for CLC, especially with my professor who was able to work with me throughout this experience,” said Rea. “Whoever reads this and isn’t sure where to start off with their school coming out of high school, CLC is a great opportunity. Even if you’re interested in a four-year university, to start off CLC is the best option.”  

About College of Lake County: 

College of Lake County is a comprehensive community college committed to equitable high-quality education, cultural enrichment and partnerships to advance the diverse communities it serves in northeastern Illinois. Offered at three campuses in Grayslake, Vernon Hills and Waukegan or online, college classes are affordable and accessible to help each student achieve academic, career and personal goals. More than 70,000 students graduated with degrees and certificates since the college opened in 1969. The College of Lake County is the only higher-education institution ranked among the top 15 best places to work in Illinois by Forbes and is a national leader in many areas, including sustainability and conservation.