Doug Moe: Is Kaya on her way to stardom?

2010-06-29T18:33:00Z 2010-07-01T09:05:09Z Doug Moe: Is Kaya on her way to stardom?By DOUG MOE | | 608-252-6446

They played her song on Z-104 the other day. Kaya Rosenthal would have liked to have been in the studio, but her presence was required in Los Angeles, where the video of the song, "Can't Get You Out of My Mind," was being shot.

That's the way it goes in show business, an industry where someone once said you can die of encouragement. When things finally do start to happen, they can happen fast.

Just don't try to describe Kaya — with her music, she goes by just her first name — as an overnight sensation.

That would be wrong on two counts. Now 16, the Madison native has been singing a long time.

"Since I could talk," Kaya said this week during an interview — her first. She has been chasing this dream almost as long, and it has meant time away from her family, nearly daily auditions, rejection and the occasional empty promise.

She is also not yet a sensation, although some pretty smart people in Los Angeles think it just might happen, including the savvy producers of that first single and the high-powered entertainment law firm that recently took her on as a client.

When "Can't Get You Out of My Mind" went up online earlier this month, it received 41,000 plays in 24 hours. Her sound is urban pop with a big dance element, and the Z-104 folks compared her to a young Britney Spears.

Kaya has been acting nearly as long as she's been singing. She played Tiny Tim in the CTM Madison Family Theatre's annual production of "A Christmas Carol."

In a review of the 2002 show — in which the writer Jackie Mitchard played her mother — Kaya, then 9, was singled out by the State Journal: "Especially well-cast is Kaya Rosenthal, the angelic-faced child who plays Tiny Tim."

There had been music in her house from the outset. Kaya's father, Marc Rosenthal, plays in a Madison band called Bonobo Secret Handshake, and Marc's father has worked as a professional piano player. Her mother, Julie Derwinski, is an attorney in Madison, which has helped as the family has waded into the occasionally shark-infested show business waters.

Kaya signed with a Chicago agency before she was out of elementary school. That led to some trips to Los Angeles for auditions and the beginning of a delicate balancing act as the family tried to honor Kaya's talent and ambition while recognizing the long odds against stardom and the importance of education and a grounded life.

"Marc and I feel she's earned it," Julie said this week. "She's responsible, and an excellent student."

A key decision was made in April 2009, when the family was moving back to Madison after spending some time in San Francisco. Just prior to the move, Kaya received news that one of her Los Angeles auditions had resulted in the offer of a recording contract.

It was eventually decided that Marc, Julie and Kaya's brother would return to Madison, while Kaya would live with trusted family friends in Los Angeles and do an independent study program for school.

As it turned out, the recording deal was less attractive than advertised, and Kaya opted out. It wouldn't be the last time. Talk is as cheap in show business as anywhere. "Assume everyone is broke and lying," a friend told Julie. It sounded harsh, but the friend wasn't wrong.

Through it all, Kaya stayed positive and continued to audition. This past April, the producers Clarence Jey and Patrice Wilson offered a deal that made sense financially and artistically. On the strength of Kaya's single — recorded in May — the entertainment law firm that handles Justin Bieber and Christina Aguilera agreed to represent her.

Julie flew to Los Angeles earlier this month to watch the music video shoot. (A snippet of it can be seen on Kaya's MySpace page.)

This week mother and daughter are in Madison, but soon Kaya will be back in California, recording an EP for which three labels have expressed early interest.

Kaya likes Los Angeles — OK, she loves Los Angeles — but there's a chance she'll be enrolling at Madison East High School in the fall. It's up in the air — that balancing act thing again. If nothing else, it would make it easier for her to hear herself on Z-104.

Contact Doug Moe at 608-252-6446 or His column appears Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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