St. Joe High Freshman will appear with Chicago again

Bruce Springsteen got his start opening for Chicago. Chicago got their start opening for Jimmy Hendrix and Janis Joplin.

But imagine being a 14-year-old from South Bend, a virtual unknown, and opening for a band that has been spinning hits for nearly 45 years.

It happened recently to a St. Joseph High freshman who was first spotted playing her guitar on the Irish Green last year by Chicago’s manager and Notre Dame alum, Pete Shivarelli.

NewsCenter 16 was invited to follow Isabela Nanni for her first big gig.

It was a Saturday in the park and, while it felt like the Fourth of July, it was the last Saturday of August and Isabela Nanni was opening for the legendary band Chicago at Ravinia. A sold out crowd of 20,000 packed the seats and the lawn.

Isabela’s mother Carmen said for Isabela, it's always been about music. "She was like 10 or 11 when she wrote her first song, and most kids aren't writing at the age. So when I saw that she had that interest I thought, well this is really something special."

Nanni's father Lou says while this is a big deal, stardom was never in Isabela’s plan. Most of her gigs are at South Bend's Center for the Homeless or nursing homes.

Lou said, "You know, some were half asleep and some were dancing around, but she has a special place in her heart for the elderly and she left and said, 'Dad, this was the best night of my life.'"

So how does an unknown open for a group in the middle of a world wide tour? Chicago’s keyboard player and songwriter Robert Lamm summed it up pretty quickly. "Peter Shivarelli are the two words"

Shivarelli, a Notre Dame graduate and walk-on for Ara Parseghian, spotted Isabela and her guitar before a football game last year.

When Shivarelli saw Isabela had written and performed a song for breast cancer survivors in front of 10,000 at the Joyce Center, he was sold on this young talent.

How does the band feel about an unknown opening act? Robert Lamm and trumpet player Lee Loughnane say it's no risk at all.

Not bad for a young woman who says high school comes first, but admits performing with the band may be, as their song says, "a hard habit to break."

Pete Shivarelli says the band wants Isabela on their Christmas tour, and she has said “yes”.

Isabela will also be playing with Chicago, November 20 when the new hockey arena is dedicated.

If you want to hear more of Isabela singing "If you leave me now," click on the attached video link.

To view Chicago's website where you can bid to sing with the band click here.

To view Nanni's website click here.

There will be more on that when we profile Pete Schivarelli in our Countdown to Kickoff show.

And Chicago and Isabela will be performing again at Notre Dame when the Compton Family Ice Arena opens November 20th at 5pm for Brian Boitano. The two hour show will be shown in December on NBC.

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