LO­CAL SIB­LINGS WOW SINGER

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - Front Page - BY THÉODEN JANES [email protected]­lot­teob­server.com

Teens Mya and Ron­ald Wor­ley were per­form­ing on a Char­lotte street cor­ner one day, and at Spec­trum Cen­ter the next, thanks to Cyndi Lau­per.

Last Fri­day was shap­ing up to be a rather or­di­nary evening for Mya and Ron­ald Wor­ley.

As the teenaged sib­lings have rou­tinely done this sum­mer un­der the watch­ful eye of their fa­ther, Ron­ald Sr., they set­tled onto the side­walk at Trade and Tryon streets and started per­form­ing mu­sic for passersby mak­ing their way through up­town Char­lotte. But as 14-yearold Mya fin­ished singing Corinne Bai­ley Rae’s “Like a Star” while backed by her 13year-old brother’s key­board, things got out of the or­di­nary.

Un­be­knownst to the Wor­leys, a pair of women walk­ing back from din­ner at City Smoke restau­rant stopped to lis­ten to the kids, and one of them said, “We gotta get them to play to­mor­row.”

So the other ap­proached Ron­ald Sr.; in­tro­duced her­self as Lisa Bar­baris, man­ager for Cyndi Lau­per; show­ered his kids with com­pli­ments; and qui­etly asked if they would be in­ter­ested in per­form­ing the singer’s most iconic song — 1983’s “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” — with her the next night at the big arena down the block.

Any ques­tion as to whether this was for real was an­swered when, Ron­ald Sr. says, “I saw this lit­tle lady also stand­ing there — she was kind of in dis­guise, al­most — but ac­tu­ally I saw her face, and I re­al­ized that it was Cyndi Lau­per. ... She

re­ally didn’t want any­body to know that it was her, so she gave me a ‘shh’ and put a fin­ger over her mouth.”

Bar­baris says this was a com­pletely spon­ta­neous de­ci­sion on Lau­per’s part, and that this isn’t some­thing she has done with other kids in other cities. “(Cyndi) just thought, ‘Th­ese kids are so young and so good. Wouldn’t that in­spire them, to be able to play in front of 20,000 peo­ple?’ I’m like, ‘Well, or it could scare the hell out of them, but yeah!’ ”

Less than 24 hours later, Mya and Ron­ald Jr. showed up at Spec­trum Cen­ter long be­fore the crowds, so Mya could re­hearse with Lau­per, so Ron­ald Jr. (tot­ing his own key­board) could meet with Lau­per’s key­boardist, and so the Wor­leys could have din­ner with mem­bers of Lau­per’s band. The fam­ily en­joyed part of her set from good seats, then headed back­stage to get ready for the sib­lings’ big mo­ment.

From stage, Lau­per set the whole thing up for the au­di­ence:

“So yes­ter­day ... I was walk­ing around, and I hap­pened to hear th­ese two kids, and it was kind of awe­some,” said the 65-year-old maker of ‘80s hits like “She Bop” and “True Col­ors.”

“When I heard Mya sing — hon­estly?”

Lau­per turned to face her dis­cov­ery.

“Hell’s bells, girl. You’ve got much beauty in your voice.”

When Lau­per no­ticed Mya looked a lit­tle ner­vous, she added: “Take a deep breath. You look like Miles. Miles used to turn his back. (As in Miles Davis, who fa­mously cov­ered her “Time Af­ter Time” on his trum­pet back in 1985 and even more fa­mously played with his back to the au­di­ence). But you don’t have to. Go ahead.”

Mya pro­ceeded to belt out the first verse and cho­rus of Lau­per’s megahit “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” which had been re­ar­ranged by Lau­per and Mya to be a haunt­ing, slowed-up, al­most­gospel-hymn-like num­ber. The only mu­si­cal ac­com­pa­ni­ment for her por­tion was Ron­ald Jr. on a key­board. The crowd roared with ap­proval as she held the last note, then cried, “1, 2, 3, 4!” be­fore giv­ing way to Lau­per and the ju­bi­lant ver­sion ev­ery­one knows.

Mya spent the rest of the song beam­ing and joy­fully danc­ing around the stage.

(Mya says she had heard “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” plenty of times be­fore; Ron­ald Jr. says he wasn’t fa­mil­iar with it at all, but was able to learn it “in about five min­utes.”)

With some 16,000 peo­ple in the au­di­ence to see Lau­per and Rod Ste­wart, it was the largest crowd the sib­lings have ever per­formed for — by about 15,900 peo­ple.

Mya, a ris­ing ninth­grader at North­west School of the Arts, and Ron­ald Jr., who is en­ter­ing eighth grade, most re­cently have per­formed (as “Dreamz 2”) at open-mic nights at Sum­mit Cof­fee Co. in David­son and Barista Craft in Char­lotte.

They seem to lean to­ward con­tem­po­rary pop artists in their per­for­mances, men­tion­ing Shawn Men­des, Adele, Sam Smith and James Arthur as ex­am­ples of the mu­sic they like to cover. But when asked if 1983 megahit “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” will start mak­ing it into the ro­ta­tion when they’re singing around Char­lotte, Mya and Ron­ald Jr. prac­ti­cally shout the an­swer in uni­son:

“Yes!”

As thrilled as they were by the ex­pe­ri­ence, though, there’s one per­son who has even more of an ap­pre­ci­a­tion for all of this than Mya and Ron­ald Jr.

“I’m an ‘80s child,” Ron­ald Sr. says. “I grew up lis­ten­ing to her mu­sic. I al­ways loved Cyndi Lau­per. ... So this was just in­cred­i­ble. I tell you, it was so in­cred­i­ble. ... Cyndi wrote some things down on pa­per for us, so I have a piece of pa­per with her hand­writ­ing on it that we’ll never, ever, ever, ever, ever- ever lose.”

Ron­ald Wor­ley Jr. and Mya Wor­ley back­stage with Cyndi Lau­per.

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