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Morton Grove 9th grader flies to LA for ‘America’s Got Talent’ audition

An audition for the “America’s Got Talent” television show could help a Morton Grove 9th grader who attends high school in Park Ridge decide on a future direction in her life and eventual career.

Annabel Gillis succeeded in the first stage of auditions for the NBC-TV program when she sent in a video of herself singing “Bruises” by singer-songwriter Lewis Capaldi. Producers from the show invited her to Pasadena, California over the weekend to hear her sing the song in person.

“We were also looking into ‘The Voice,’ but AGT mainly because I’ve been watching it like ever since I was a little kid,” Gillis said. “All I could think was like, if I could get to AGT I want to meet Howie Mendel. I always wanted to be there to see what would happen.”

Gillis said if she needed to sing other selections, she would use backup options of “Diamonds” popularized by Rihanna, “Jolene” popularized by Dolly Parton and “Shallow,” written by Lady Gaga with Andrew Wyatt, Anthony Rossomando and Mark Ronson.

Gillis said she doesn’t have a musical background but likes to sing because it gives her a sense of power and reflection for emotions, and that is why she sings songs that require singers to have strong voices.

Her father, Sean Gillis, said Annabel has been singing since she was a baby and was able to make sounds, and participated in a couple of plays at the local theater when the family lived in Irvington, New York. He said her voice is maturing and has gotten better over time.

Still, Annabel Gillis said she was unsure if she wanted to pursue singing and wanted to use America’s Got Talent as a litmus test to see if she has something special. “I don’t really think sometimes I have a good voice,” she said. “America’s Got Talent is for me to confirm if I want to pursue (singing) or not because I really want to be a veterinarian.”

“I try to be very humble,” she said.

Annabel said she volunteers for PetSmart and Wright-Way Rescue, a nonprofit adoption center in Morton Grove. The Gillis family owns two dogs, Tyson and Lucy, both rescues. “I love my dogs a lot, especially our pitbull mix, Tyson. Lucy is also amazing – I say she’s the definition of ADHD in a dog.”

As she weighs her options with singing, she said if she were to win the million-dollar cash prize for America’s Got Talent, she would use it to pay for a cat and her and her sister’s college tuition. She said she wanted to attend Cornell University for its acclaimed veterinary program.

Ahead of her audition, Gillis’ school did a sendoff, similar to a sendoff for school sports teams going to the state playoffs. Her family cheered her audition on Feb. 1.

If America’s Got Talent producers decide they want Gillis to return for a third audition with celebrity judges and a shot at being on television, Sean Gillis said the producers would get in touch by March to let them know the next steps.

An earlier version of this story contained incorrect names for Gillis’ dogs. It has been updated to include the correct names.