Teen's quarantine concerts strike a chord with audiences
Alongside the glow of a fireplace, Katie Kostner strums a ukulele and for the next three minutes and four seconds turns an Elvis cover into a lullaby.
The 16-year-old can take her vocals to full power.
But Katie chooses a purer, hopeful sound to help her virtual audiences rediscover what might be sorely missing from their daily routines: a bit of calm, grace and connection.
Without her usual stage, the sophomore at Wheaton Warrenville South High School has made the most of her time in isolation with quarantine concerts every Friday night from the comfort and safety of her family home.
"I never would have dreamed that this would have been something so special to people," she says.
So far, Katie has produced 12 concerts airing live on social media, drawing more than 5,000 individual views on Facebook alone. During each week, she prepares new concert themes, arrangements, special guests (her adorable dog made an appearance last Friday) and rehearsals. And then it's show time at 6:55 p.m.
For all that legwork, she's still charmingly off-the-cuff interacting with her followers in real-time.
"A ton of them say it's their highlight of their week," Katie says. "It's just something that really inspires people and keeps them motivated. It keeps us all connected."
Last week, she paid homage to Van Morrison's "Brown Eyed Girl" and Cyndi Lauper's "True Colors" as part of a color theme. The response from homegrown fans?
"Keep singing ... Keep smiling!!!" one commenter wrote.
"You rocked that final note, Katie! Excellent!" wrote another.
Before the pandemic, Katie's star was on the rise. Over the past two summers, she's won both the junior and senior divisions of the DuPage County Fair talent competition, the first time a performer took first-place honors in back-to-back years, her dad, Rich Kostner, said.
One judge awarded a perfect score for her rendition of Lady Gaga's "Shallow," the Oscar-winning power ballad from "A Star is Born." Katie then went on to represent the county at the state competition in January.
She also was approached by "America's Got Talent" producers to audition for the NBC show, but they ultimately did not select her for the cast, her dad said.
At South, she does musical theater and solos with the school's elite show choir.
The pandemic has canceled other performances, but it hasn't thwarted her ambitions.
"I just want to keep growing in the arts, but I also wanted to inspire other people and keep people positive," she said.
"I want to keep going as long as I can," she said.