She's got the looks, poise, and voice. But whether spunky Chester Springs singer-songwriter Katelyn Krapf makes it - wherever
resides these days - depends on fickle strangers with laptops.
Krapf, a soulful West Chester University freshman, seems completely unfazed by the thought of trusting her fate to electronics. Just 18, she's already a veteran of two American Idol auditions and a $20,000 Nashville recording scam.
The 2010 Downingtown High School East graduate has five websites where fans can look, listen, and learn about the self-described "nobody." Today, anyone who wants to be somebody does that much and more. Even so, Krapf frets about how hard it is to get heard:
"There are so many people out there just like me."
Krapf's latest aural adventure, Avon Voices (www.philly.com/avoncompetition), pits her against 22 Americans and 164 foreigners in a global online sing-athon.
Naturally, she found Avon Voices while trolling the Internet. In between studying and writing music, "I saw the ad on my MySpace and Facebook pages."
These are cacophonous times. Video did not kill the radio star, but the Internet has so democratized music that both the criminally gifted (British chanteuse Adele) and appallingly Auto-Tuned (13-year-old YouTube phenom Rebecca Black) can gain instant fame.
Krapf admires Adele and has recorded songs written by a collaborator of Joss Stone, another idol. The Chester County native recoils at the thought of being slammed as a novelty act like Black, but any savvy student of the industry can't fathom dissing any paying customer.
"If they want to buy my music to make fun of it, who cares?"
In high school, Krapf kept her passion to herself to avoid teasing. She made the homecoming court, but few friends knew she played piano and drove to New Jersey to study with a coach who trained a winner on America's Got Talent.
"Katelyn's a lovely girl inside and out," raves Sal Dupree of Dupree Performing Arts in Linwood, N.J. "She's grateful to be blessed with the gifts she's been given."
The would-be star suffered a setback after a producer introduced himself via MySpace. Krapf and her divorced parents researched the producer, flew to Nashville, and paid the man $20,000 for a record that never materialized.
"We paid him almost a year's college tuition," recalls her mother, Karen Gerlach, now married to U.S. Rep. Jim Gerlach (R., Pa.). "We wound up taking the guy to court."
The family won a judgment against the producer but has yet to collect. Krapf remains remarkably upbeat about the letdown.
"It was good this happened," she tells me at the kitchen table of her mother's home. "I learned what the music business is really like at a young age."
Who are you?
Between choosing a major (criminal justice), hanging with her dorm mates, hostessing at a Mexican restaurant, and handling her own PR to drum up votes for Avon Voices, Krapf can be forgiven for not yet settling on a stage name.
For the Avon contest, she is listed simply as KLyn K. On Facebook, she's Katelyn-Rose.
"Katelyn was invited to Sony in New York when she was a junior," her mother explains. "They told her, 'You have the look. You have the talent. Now you need to define yourself as an artist.' "
But to win Avon Voices, Krapf must sing songs by Celine Dion and Christina Aguilera. How do you become who you're supposed to be by mimicking someone else?
Listen closely and you'll hear Krapf acknowledging the dilemma in "Destiny," a song she wrote and performs online (www.myspace.com/klyn19).
My destiny, it's still inside of me
I don't know what's right
. . . I don't know what's headed for me.