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Big dreams come true for Miami students who’ll sing at Phil Collins’ Little Dreams gala

David Frangioni, musical director for the Little Dreams Foundation, mentors the students during one of their weekly lessons David Frangioni, musical director for the Little Dreams Foundation, mentors the students during one of their weekly lessons Ashlee Nichols

Luisa Maggioni wasn’t born when Billboard hits In The Air Tonight and Another Day in Paradise were released. But growing up, she has been a big fan of Phil Collins, and now, the 18-year-old aspiring musician will soon be opening a concert for the music legend.

"When I heard that there was an audition to be a part of something with Phil Collins, I thought it was too good to be true," Maggioni said. "I didn’t expect how amazing the opportunity would be."

Maggioni is one of six graduates of the Little Dreams Foundation, a charity founded in 2000 by Phil Collins and his ex-wife Orianne Collins Mejjati, devoted to providing underprivileged children ages 4 to18 with mentoring from professionals within the areas of sports, art and music.

Maggioni will take the stage before headliners Collins, Richard Marx, Alejandra Guzman, Jermaine Jackson and Laura Pausini at the Little Dreams Foundation Gala: Dreaming on the Beach Charity Concert on Dec. 6 at The Fillmore in Miami Beach.

"There were a lot of kids who wrote to us for our support because they didn’t have the financial means," Mejjati said. "We thought instead of sending them checks, we know some great personalities that could help in giving them a drive to realize their dreams," she said, referring to the many famous friends they know.

Since March 2014, Maggioni and the other five LDF finalists from Miami have been taking weekly 45-minute vocal lessons at Markee Studios in Deerfield Beach to develop their talents.

The one-on-one lessons have focused on strengthening the students’ vocal skill sets and stage presence through practicing songs that inspire each of them individually.

"If it’s taking worthy young people that are talented from one level to the next level, where hopefully at a point in time they can make a living playing music, I think that’s a pretty cool gift to give somebody through a foundation," said Mark Begelman, the co-owner of Markee Studios, about the Little Dreams Foundation.

Throughout the year, the students have been mentored by David Frangioni, the program’s musical director. Frangioni’s musical résumé spans from being the chief engineer technologist for artists like Aerosmith, Ozzy Osbourne, Rolling Stones, Elton John and Ringo Starr to being the CEO of Audio One, a company that installs in-home automation and theater systems.

"David has incredible ideas for the kids, and he’s an enormous part of why Little Dreams is working so well," Maggioni said. "This experience has inspired me even more to make singing my career because every day that I’m with the Little Dreams Foundation, I fall even more in love with what I do."

Frangioni will back up the students on drums during every song at the concert. He feels their performances will be a good representation of LDF’s first successful year in Miami, as the program was launched locally last November to represent the Americas.

"You learn more playing one song in front of 2,200 people right before Phil Collins is going on stage than you would three years from studying out of a book," Frangioni said. "This should be a night that transforms the kids."

For fans of Collins, this will be the first public concert since his retirement in 2011, with the exception of a show he played in May for his sons’ spring concert at Miami Country Day middle school.

Ticket prices for the event range from $120 to $380 per seat, and the proceeds will benefit the foundation.

"I want the audience to be entertained tremendously while being made aware of the good that’s being done with the funds that they donated," Frangioni said.

© Miami Herald, by Kathleen Devaney

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