"Moses was 80 when he started. Why can't I?"
AnneMarie Mercadante grew up on television in the heart of New York City. She performed alongside Connie Francis on the ever-popular television show Star Time Kids, which later landed her a solo at Carnegie Hall. When AnneMarie’s plans to pursue music were suddenly pulled out from under her, she set her passion for singing aside. Because of God’s timing, AnneMarie’s passions were reignited after she attended SHINE at age 73. Today, AnneMarie is on the fast-track to a professional singing career, and she is determined to glorify Jesus Christ while in the spotlight.
Tell us about growing up! You did a lot with music and singing when you were younger.
I was born and raised to an Italian family in New York City. I started playing around with my cousins, when I noticed that I could sing! My parents didn’t pay attention, it was not a priority of theirs. They thought it was just a kid thing. But my parents began to notice I had something so they enrolled me in the CBS Music School on 54th and Broadway in NYC. Part of that extension was Star Time Kids, a late 40s and early 50s television program right from the CBS studio. I was part of that with Connie Francis, who was in a lot of movies with Tommie Sands…I’m talking early 50s, now!
I stayed with that school until I was 17, and had the opportunity to perform a solo at Carnegie Hall with the CBS music school. In the interim, there was an audition taking place for Desi Arnaz ad Lucille Ball. My father took me to the audition, and it was the producers of Desilu productions looking for new talent. They accepted me, and I received the opportunity to have a seven-year contract with them.
My mom being a very strict Italian parent, and me being an only child, she was very negative about it. She didn’t say anything until I was just about to turn 18, and she decided to break the contract. I was supposed to go on the road to California, different bistros, modeling, and shows, and they were not encouraging her to come. So she broke the contact, and that stunted my dreams. My godfather, who was a professional dancer, sang with Tito Puente and Xavier Cugat. He would call me to sing with them at the Palladium in Manhattan.
So I was nearing twenty, fell in love, got married, and had my son. I would always sing, but not professionally. Then we became Christians and missionaries to South America. I taught singing, dance and physical education. We came back home in 1997, and we are now pastoring a church.
Did you resent your mother for this?
I vowed that I would never sing in front of her again. I did resent her and thought that she took my gift away. Our relationship wasn’t 100 percent until I was married. I wasn’t even a Christian at the time, but I heard a voice (the Lord) say, “You need to speak to your mother.” So I said, “Mom, I have to ask you to forgive me for taking back my love from you.” She said, “I was afraid, AnneMarie. I didn’t want to lose you to the music world.”
See, her fear hindered me. But we don’t know if God stopped my career for His own purpose. It was a frustration of mine for many, many years…but I believe that God’s timing is perfect. Now, everyone is telling me, “This is your time.” If something doesn’t come to fruition, that’s okay. If it stops right here, that’s okay. I found and have AMTC. I will never lose what that organization has given me.
How did you get back into singing professionally?
Everything was put on hold as far as singing professionally, until my son saw the billboard for Actors, Models and Talent for Christ in West Palm Beach, Fl. He made an appointment for me to go audition. I went last October, John Montes auditioned me and I was accepted into the program. It has been a wonderful, wonderful part of my life! AMTC, to me, is a company with integrity and love for the Lord. My attraction to them was the love they have for Christ, and the respect they have towards their students and people who audition for them.
I have also have a great relationship with my Hub Coaches, Nat and Betty Brown. They are incredible people. I can’t speak enough about Carey Lewis and Adam She.
And the SHINE Conference?
When I went to the SHINE Conference and won overall singer, I was overwhelmed. I could start crying because it was what God had for me at this particular of my life. I’m not 16 or 17 anymore, and I was going up against wonderful talent. Then I got a callback from America’s Got Talent, which I became very close with that agent, Nate Butler. He is a wonderful Christian man, and we have just become prayer partners. I went and had my audition two weeks ago for America’s Got Talent. I have a contract with Tate Music, and just sent them a rough tape. Sweetheart Records also gave me a callback, and I am looking forward to recording an Italian album with them. Everything is moving along, and I am still singing in church, because that is my first priority and first love. I love singing in church in ministering to the people.
While I was at SHINE, I was in a lot of pain and I needed hip surgery. The pain that I had that week was over the top, but God got me through it. I am now three months in restoration with me hip, and I am doing wonderful. Many, many things have taken place this year!
What was it like to be in the industry at such a young age, having that pulled away from you, then jumping back in at 73?
When I was younger, I was very quiet. The only thing I wanted was my singing. My parents were not complementary, and always said “you can do better.” They feared me leaving and going into that lifestyle. My father was behind me a little, but my mother was not at all. It was never, “How did you do at school?” None of that. I did musicals at school that my mother never really was interested in.
When I got married and put everything on hold, there was a deep yearning –almost a frustration– inside of me. A frustration that I was not following my passions. Then when I found the Lord and God sent us to Ecuador, everything was put on hold again but it was different. I think now, after all that has happened, I see that God comes first, as the Giver of every gift. I have the wisdom now to not get caught up in “I’m a singer.” My son has even toldme, “Do you realize what is going on in your life? Do you realize that you won an award at AMTC? Do you realize that you have a contract?” It’s not that I don’t realize it, it’s just that I’m not overwhelmed in it. Singing is not my only function. I am giving everything to the Lord, Jesus Christ. If he wants me to be on America’s Got Talent, I will, and if not, I will move on. If he wants me to be successful in the music industry then that is what I want.
Did you do anything with singing while in Ecuador?
When I went there, I went for the purpose of ministering to other people. Then I got involved with singing in the church, and I’ll tell you what happened. I was learning the language and it was very difficult. I always sang in Italian, because I was born and raised speaking and singing in Italian. Now I was learning a Spanish language. The director of music that we had was very hyper and gifted, and wanted us to learn seven songs a week to prepare for Sunday: So they bypassed me because I did not know the music. At first, pride welled up in me. I thought, “How could you bypass me? I have a gift. I know about music.” God shifted that for me to teach aerobics and dance for the last six years. This was wonderful, because I focused on other gifts and really connected to the people of Ecuador. I realized it was all in God’s hands from there, and had to trust Him.
From there, you and your husband became pastors of a church?
My husband got very sick with Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma cancer, so we were asked to return to the states and co-pastor a Spanish church in West Palm Beach, Florida. We are still doing that, under the same banner. Our church now has shifted to more English, with my daughter translating to the Spanish people. I teach the children’s singing, am very much a part of the younger children and youth in
Tell us about auditioning for America’s Got Talent.
At SHINE I met with Nate Butler, who really encouraged me to go on America’s Got Talent. We talked for a bit, about how I was a missionary, and he asked me if I would pray for him. When someone asks me to pray for them, I pray with them at that very moment. We held hands and prayed and the holy ghost fell. From that moment on, I’ve had a divine relationship with Nate as a prayer partner. He scheduled me an appointment to audition for the producer of America’s Got Talent. When I arrived to the audition, there was a much larger turnout than expected.
I was constantly hydrating, but my vocal chords were so tired. I prayed, “Lord let me do what you would have me do.” When I auditioned, there were three other people in the room. When I was singing in English, he was on his computer, but when I switched over to Italian he looked up. After I finished, I hit every note without cracking, the producer looked up and said “AnneMarie, you did really well.”
Now we are waiting to see what God has. It would be wonderful to go on the show and mention the name of Jesus. To life up His name, to me, is everything. I would love to be on national television. It would be wonderful to go back on television, but is in the hands of the Lord. I’ll make you laugh…I said ,“Lord, you have to hurry up! I’m 73, I don’t have much time!!”
What would you say to people your age who are considering AMTC and SHINE?
I would say go! Go and perform your gifts and talents that the Lord has given you. There is no age in singing, dancing or acting. The only thing that happens is that it gets better. You have wisdom now. I remember being backstage with the younger people, and seeing them so nervous and hyper. I would sit with them and say “Calm down, you’re in the Lord’s hands.” Don’t let anything intimidate you for the gifting you have. I met wonderful people and had a wonderful experience. Just do what God gave you and be happy. There is no age in the Lord. Moses was 80 when he started, so just do what God calls you to do.
Additional information: AnneMarie has been married to Pastor Patrick John for 53 years. Their son Patrick (52) and his wife Fatima have been married for 16 years and have three children: Emily (19), Patrick (14) and Carmine (11).