July 13--SAN DIMAS -- When Rebecca Jane of Pomona bursts out in song, it could be an original composition filled with yearning.
It's equally likely it'll involve a sudden, soulful rendition of "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" wonderfully reminiscent of both Marvin Gaye's and Gladys Knight's versions of the rhythm-and-blues classic.
Rebecca Jane doesn't remember when she first demonstrated musical talent, but her mother does.
"She was only a year old when I heard her humming 'Jingle Bells.' She was something else even then," said Monica Mendez about the daughter who will be among entertainers at the San Dimas Sheriff's Booster Club's 20th annual "Shine It! Show It! Cruise It!" car show on July 28.
Rebecca -- who professionally uses only her first and middle names -- will perform between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. at the fundraiser for local Sheriff's reserves and volunteer units. The event on Bonita Avenue between Cataract Avenue and Iglesia Street goes from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Rebecca is blind, but she doesn't consider herself handicapped. She said her confidence about tackling challenges stems from the fact she has known nothing but love, nurturing and understanding from her parents, Ed and Monica Mendez, younger brothers Edward, Matthew and Joshua and a large clan of grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.
"A doctor told me that oftentimes persons with physical challenges will excel in other areas," Monica said. "He said Rebecca could be more sensitive to music because her blindness prevents her from visualizing things.
"I never thought she'd have the ability she has now. She's brilliant," Monica proudly asserted. "She's had a huge vocabulary since she was 2- or 3-years-old. At 5, this girl could hear a song and sing it with the same intensity. That's not normal for an average 5-year-old. Her music overwhelms us."
That reaction to Rebecca's singing is not limited to family.
Strangers can hear how easily she scales high notes, stretches her vocal range, then dips down into a well of intense emotions. And be stirred by the sincerity, power and emotionally charged delivery.
That's how the self-taught singer, pianist, guitarist and songwriter wants others to react to her music.
"I'd hate for anyone to have a negative response," she admitted. "When you're writing or singing a song about particular experiences or feelings, you want the audience to feel comforted, joy, happy, excited. You want to give people a sense of peace. It's all emotions when people are relating to and understanding you."
Rebecca was born in San Dimas and has lived in Pomona her entire life. She had a few guitar lessons, but her driving interest in music rather than formal lessons have propelled her. Although her set designer father, Fairplex decorator mother and three artist brothers express their creativity visually, music comes biologically to her from grandmothers Emily Ochoa and Virginia Mendez. Both family matriarchs sang together in the St. Joseph's Catholic Church choir and influenced Rebecca's first public performance in the church's children's choir.
"When I was little, I loved singing peppy, uplifting songs in the little kids' choir," Rebecca recalled. "The melodies were easy and the words made me feel good. I don't like to write essays, but I do like lyrics of a song. I don't have to see music to feel it or be moved by it. I can rely on my hearing to understand the pitches, notes and emotions of a song or instrumental piece."
Rebecca, 19, is a music major at Citrus College. She prefers jazz, old-school soul and classic Motown, but she loves her original compositions. She has played piano since she was 5 and guitar since age 8. She was 15 when she added composing to her artistic talents.
She has performed at Upland's Lemon Festival, Race For The Cure, Food Truck Thursdays at the Wally Parks NHRA Museum and Holy Name of Mary Catholic Church Family Festival. On July 25, she performs from 7 to 9 p.m. at Frisella's Restaurant in Glendora.
(c)2013 the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin (Ontario, Calif.)
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