There are plenty of singers on “America’s Got Talent,” but what set Barbara Padilla apart from the other contestants on her season was her inspiring story.
Born in Guadalajara, Mexico, Padilla was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma in 1996 while studying at Universidad de Guadalajara. Despite the threat chemotherapy posed to her vocal chords, she completed her master’s degree in music on a full scholarship at the University of Houston and has been in remission since having a life-saving bone marrow transplant in 2000.
On Sunday, the Mexican-American operatic soprano will perform in the Fine Arts Hall at Santa Fe College, 3000 NW 83 St. Tickets cost $25 for students and $50 for adults and can be purchased online or at the box office two hours before the show starts. The doors open at 3:30 p.m., and the event begins at 4 p.m.
Padilla was the runner-up on the fourth season of “America’s Got Talent,” wowing the judges in the semifinals by singing Charles Gounod’s “Ave Maria,” a performance judge Piers Morgan called “the greatest single vocal performance we’ve ever had on ‘America’s Got Talent.’”
The concert is a fundraiser for the Climb for Cancer Foundation, a Gainesville-based organization that seeks to promote the welfare of cancer patients, survivors, and their families via the funding of enrichment programs and research grants.
Rob Farb, co-founder and co-executive director of the Climb for Cancer Foundation, reached out to Padilla many years ago via email after watching her season of “America’s Got Talent”.
“I was blown away by her compelling story of being a cancer survivor who was told she would never sing again and overcoming those odds to become this amazing performer,” Farb said.
Farb first met Padilla at a performance at Bob Carr Theater in Orlando back in 2010, where he invited her to perform in Gainesville. Sunday’s concert will mark Padilla’s third performance in the city.
“I thought not only would she put on a wonderful concert, but she would be able to give people battling this disease hope.” Farb said.
In addition to the fundraiser, the event is a part of Santa Fe’s Master Artist Series, a program that brings professional artists to campus and teach a class to a select group of Santa Fe and UF students. Padilla will be inviting two singers from UF or Santa Fe from this class to join her in Sunday’s performance.
The Santa Fe Fine Arts Department is acting as a partial sponsor for the event, waiving many of the technology costs necessary to put on the concert in exchange for Padilla’s involvement in the Master Artist Series.
“I was happy to participate,” said Department Chairperson Alora Haynes. “It was a win-win scenario.”
Haynes described Padilla as deeply compassionate and approachable, unlike many artists who’ve reached a similar level of notoriety.
“Her story is a difficult story of a cancer survivor on the one hand, but on the other she has an extra personal will not just to survive but to thrive,” Haynes said. “She has a new lease on life to make the most of every day she lives and every concert she gives, which is very apparent when you’re around her.”