“They tell you if you get into this world with your child there will be a phone call,” Salah Kivlighn said. “And we’re not sure if this is the phone call, but it was the biggest call yet.”
For Kivlighn, his wife Eimear and their 10-year-old daughter Aishlinn of Rockville that phone call came at the end of February when talent executive Shaun Royer, who’s worked with artists such as Hillary Duff, Justin Timberlake and Alicia Keys, called to offer Aishlinn a spot opening for a Disney concert tour this summer.
“That call was scary and exciting,” said Eimear. “It was the ‘Oh my God,’ call.”
A fifth-grader at Travilah Elementary School in North Potomac, Aishlinn will be one of three opening acts for the Disney tour “Roshon Fegan and Caroline Sunshine Concert Jam,” which kicks off June 1 in Pennsylvania.
Fegan and Sunshine are two of the stars of the Disney Channel series, “Shake It Up,” about two girls (actresses Bella Thorne and Zendaya) and their adventures as backup dancers on a local show, “Shake It Up, Chicago.”
After an initial trip to Los Angeles the first week of March and a second trip to record and rehearse with the cast in April, Aishlinn has since been rehearsing for the tour locally four days a week at C-Unit studio in Bethesda. The hometown rehearsals allow Aishlinn to maintain a balance between her school life and her music life.
“I’ve had to keep it kind of two separate worlds,” Aishlinn said. “Usually I do schoolwork right when I get home and then practice. ... I try to keep these separate so I can balance it.”
For Aishlinn’s parents, the decision to allow their fifth-grader to pursue a professional music career didn’t come without trepidation.
“It was scary not only from the perspective of this is what we want to do, but is this the right decision for our friends and family,” Kivlighn said.
But Kivlighn said Aishlinn’s dedication and maturity have made the process an easy one so far.
“She is very organized and very disciplined,” Kivlighn said. “Aishlinn likes to have things done.”
Plus, there was no denying their daughter had talent, Kivlighn and his wife said.
“I left the baby monitor in my room way later than I should have because she used to sing herself to sleep,” said Eimear.
“We used to clean the house on Saturday mornings, and we had music going, and she used to know the words to all of the Eagles songs,” Kivlighn said.
And it wasn’t just her parents who recognized Aishlinn had something special. When Aishlinn was just 5 years old, and the family was living in Pennsylvania, Eimear said she took her daughter for her first music lesson. Upon learning Aishlinn’s age, Eimear said the music teacher told them she only accepted students age 7 or older. Eimear asked the woman to please give her daughter a chance.
After just 20 minutes with Aishlinn on the piano, the music teacher told Eimear, “She’s good. She’s really good. I’m going to take her.”
After the family moved to Rockville, Aishlinn continued with voice, piano and violin lessons. Last year, she recorded her first album, “This is It,” with Jeff Levin, founder of the Bach to Rock Music School chain and president of Big V Production, Inc. Aishlinn’s second EP, “Never Too Young,” comes out this month and features songs she recorded in Los Angeles with Royer, along with producers Andrew Lane and Douglas James. Lane is behind other Disney mega-hits, “Hanna Montana” and “High School Musical,” while James has worked with Mariah Carey.
The transition to professional artists hasn’t only been an adjustment for Aishlinn. Her parents now spend much of their time creating a brand for their daughter.
“I spend a fair amount of time doing the behind the scenes stuff,” said Kivlighn, who works full time as a product development team leader at MedImmune. “I get a couple hours of Aishlinn work done before I get started with my day.”
“I need sleep. He doesn’t need sleep,” Eimear said jokingly, an account executive at Merck & Co. “I am more of the project manager.”
While Aishlinn said she dreams of making it big like her role models Christina Aguilera and Mariah Carey, the 10-year-old also recognizes the importance of using her fame to give back.
With 3,000 fans on Internet radio and 800 followers on Twitter, Aishlinn’s reach is wide. And as with so many young celebrities, she’s chosen to use her influence to spread awareness for a cause: childhood cancer and other diseases. She has been invited to perform for patients at Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles on her next visit out West.
“I think it’s probably one of the most important parts of doing this,” Aishlinn said. “I know I can do what I love and make such a big difference. I know I can help someone and make them feel good inside with my music.”