Witnessing homeless children on the streets of the Philippines had a profound impact on Greenwood’s Kaylin-Mahal Smith when she was younger.
“It’s one thing hearing about it, but it’s another thing seeing it,” Smith said. “Every day when I would go to school, I would see a grandma and a little girl and they were just on the streets, begging for food and money. I wish I could have helped.
“I wanted to help people I saw there,” Smith continued. “When we came back to the U.S., I saw that poverty was a problem here as well,” Smith said. “I started volunteering at the Greenwood Soup Kitchen, picking up trash around the community and packing food for children overseas through Rise Against Hunger. I feel like it’s not enough. I want to have this concert to help people in need.”
Smith is playing piano and singing from 4 to 6 p.m. Aug. 11 at the Arts Center of Greenwood, 120 Main St. The title of the concert she is organizing is “Sharing God’s Given Talents.”
Donations in any amount will be accepted at the door of the concert, to support Greenwood Pathway House, which will also be opening a thrift store at 10 a.m. Thursday in Greenwood, to support its mission and ministry.
Smith’s mother, Glend, has family in the Philippines and the Smith family lived there for five years, moving there when Kaylin-Mahal was 4-years-old. The family moved back to the United States when she was 9.
That experience, and collecting and donating items to Greenwood’s Pathway House during the last school year, inspired the 17-year-old to organize a free piano and voice concert to benefit the Greenwood-based crisis shelter that serves men and women.
Smith collected and donated items such as shampoo and canned goods to Pathway House through her volunteerism with Greenwood High School’s Rotary Interact Club last school year.
“I decided to use part of the prize money I got from a talent competition in North Carolina to start this concert,” Smith said, noting she won second place and a $1,500 prize from a regional Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Talent Hunt Program in Durham, North Carolina, (in May of 2019) after first competing at the local level in a Greenwood competition.
“I’ve been singing for as long as I can remember,” Smith said. “I’ve been in musicals at Greenwood Community Theatre and at school. In middle school, I was also part of Palmetto Girls Sing. I’ve been playing piano for the past five years.”
Smith is a piano student of Lisa Won Jung Kiser in Greenville who trained as a pianist in South Korea, and made her orchestral debut at age 10. Kiser is the principal keyboardist of the Greenville Symphony Orchestra and teaches at Anderson University. Previously, Smith was a piano student of Sherry Crisp in Greenwood.
“They have both been great mentors,” Smith said of Kiser and Crisp. “I’ve learned from them how to connect the audience with music when I play.”
When Smith decided she wanted to do a concert for Greenwood Pathway House, she told Anthony Price, the crisis shelter’s executive director, about her idea to set up the fundraiser.
“She came to us,” Price said. “She’s accomplished this. We’re excited to be a part of this concert. It’s really about one teenager wanting to make a difference and being willing to do the hard work to get that done.”
Price said it’s great to have people in the community willing to help Greenwood Pathway House.
“I was trying to find a place to do the concert and I really wanted a nice piano,” Smith said. “I knew the Arts Center had a nice piano, so I decided to do that.”
Smith said she might have her younger brother, Spencer, 13, perform with her, who recently started piano lessons.
“I’m going to sing four songs,” Smith said. “There’s some Broadway in there and some Disney songs and ‘Amazing Grace.’ Then, I will play four songs on piano, mostly classical music,” Smith said. “God blessed me with talent and abilities. I think we should all share our abilities to help people in need.”
Smith said she knows there are a lot of young people in the community with musical talent.
“I hope they won’t keep their talents to themselves,” Smith said. “We all have a purpose in life and that is to help each other.”
This August, Smith is headed to the South Carolina Governor’s School for Science and Mathematics, a residential high school in Hartsville, where she is expected to complete her last two years of high school education.
“I was accepted to both the South Carolina Governor’s School for Arts and Humanities and the South Carolina Governor’s School for Science and Mathematics,” Smith said, noting she’s thinking about the possibility of teaching young children piano for free at some point.
“I want more children to have opportunity to learn piano,” Smith said.
While music is a passion, Smith said she wants to go into the medical field.
“I want to be a doctor,” Smith said, noting she’s interested in neuroscience and genetics.