Meet Marcio Donaldson, a talented 28-year-old man who’s one with the music. The self-described singer-songwriter believes that, “Music is me and I am music.” But this gifted man is so much more than that. Before we get to that, we have to talk about his origins. The singer, who’s based in California, released a four-track EP back in November 2013, which he called “the restoration of good music with a new broken sound.” Since he’s a lyrically gifted ball of talent, it didn’t take long before someone discovered him.
But before getting there, Marcio had to put up with a tough upbringing, where sadly, being part of a gang or doing drugs was the norm. He grew up in Compton, California, and lived in an apartment (along with his mom and sister) that was infested with cockroaches. His mother could not longer afford to feed her kids. Eventually, the state placed Marcio and his sister in the system. He faced many challenges and obstacles during his childhood, but he never let this break his spirit.
Marcio talked about this tough upbringing and shared, “Growing up in the inner city, it was hard.” He added, “It was tough, and a lot of people succumb to the circumstances. So I wanted to be a light for those who don’t believe in dreams or don’t see them being possible or obtainable, you know what I’m saying?” Many people who were in the same boat would’ve succumbed to temptation, getting into drugs or joining a gang. But not Marcio. He turned to music and used it as a creative outlet.
Marcio had been dreaming of going on the show, “American Idol,” for which he had already tried last year. He actually made it to the group round but was eventually eliminated. But just as Marcio was getting ready to give it a shot again, he heard a knock on his door. A police offer and a social worker had brought in his week-old baby nephew. Sadly, his drug-addicted sister wasn’t providing a safe environment for the baby. At that moment, he realized he was in a tough spot.
“You know how they say the cycle repeats. It started off with my mother in the system,” Marcio wisely explained. “Then me in the system. And then my sister had a child.” “The police and the social worker came to my home, they brought him and here was this week-old baby.” He was forced to make a decision fast, “They said, ‘You have 10 minutes to decide if you will keep this child or he goes in the system.’” He knew this could push his hopes and dreams to the back burner, but he knew what he had to do.
He quickly told the caseworkers, “I’ll take him.” “I didn’t want him to go through what I went through.” In the beginning, he felt really lost and out of the water. “But he’s actually a real gift,” he added. “I know it was the right decision. And he’s changed my life.” But this young man’s life was about to change in more ways than one after deciding to finally audition for “American Idol.” Will he end up being successful and rock the judges this time around?
Marcio always found a way to cope with life thanks to his music, so naturally, he hoped that his passion and hard work would finally open some doors in Hollywood. But if that’s the case, then what would happen to baby Rashad? Marcio decided to take him to his audition. Thankfully, he was allowed to bring him into the room. Immediately, Judge Luke Bryan asked to hold the baby, to which Marcio replied in a jokingly tone, “He’s a real baby.” But would this beautiful baby be sort of a good luck charm for Marcio?
While Judge Bryan held baby Rashad, Marcio sang his heart out and pulled an emotional audition. Every judge in that room was moved by his story. The song of choice? “Jealous” by Labrinth, which allowed Marcio to fully display his gifted voice for the world to hear. Right after he was done performing, he emotionally broke down, as the song was clearly dedicated to baby Rashad, his new son whom he clearly loves.
All the judges were crying their eyes out, as was most of the folks who were watching from home. How could one single person be through so much in their young life? Other folks would’ve probably given up by now. Some may have even left their nephew enter the system, but he fought for that baby. Katy Perry told him, “You’re a good human.” Lionel Tichie emotionally told him, “I applaud you” before giving him a hug. And Bryan simply said, “Your voice is real.” But Marcio was about to hear something that would change his life.
Judge Bryan went on to say, “Is it technically perfect? No, man, but it’s real. You ride that horse just as far as it will take you.” Katy Perry followed by saying, “I think we’re always looking for people to sing with their feelings, and I really like that from you.” She continued, “I think you’re a really sensitive, emotional, beautiful, vulnerable soul. God bless you for being such an incredible, stand-up man.” But would this unbelievable performance get him the golden ticket?
The world was holding their breath. What happens if Marcio didn’t get in? He’d have to go back home, find a steady job that’d allow him to support his new baby, and try to keep on with his life. All of his dreams of making it in the business would be squashed, as he would have to find more practical options to support a young child and himself. But if he was approved by the judges, he’d go straight to Hollywood, making his dreams come true. The results could completely change his and his baby’s life.
All three judges felt that Marcio had an amazing motive to succeed, and it wasn’t due to just wanting to “make it” for the sake of making it. It was a “yes” from every judge, and Marcio finally made it to the next round. He quickly rushed towards the judges and thanked them all, while picking up Rashad, who was holding the golden ticket. He was finally headed to Hollywood! Sometimes, our struggles help build the person we are today. Without a doubt, it was Marcio’s determination and talent that allowed him to move forward. But he wasn’t the only contestant with a tough backstory.
22-year-old Brandon Elder was also inspired by his tough upbringing. He sang an original song he wrote for the amazing woman who took him in when he was younger, and later died of cancer. His biological mom was only fifteen when she had him, and according to Brandon, “She supposedly traded me for a car.” A second woman opened her home to him but wasn’t able to raise him either, so he was finally ended up at another woman’s house, until she eventually died in 2016, from breast cancer. “I started singing a lot in front of her, and she liked it,” he shared. “So I just kept singing.” Was he able to make it in the end?
Thankfully, he ended up making the rounds after getting a “yes” from all three of the judges. Auditions kept rolling, and Amalia Watty was next. She also used music to cope with the many obstacles she faced as a child. She was abandoned by her father when she was three. She finally moved to New York to be with her dad, but she ended up meeting him once. “As a girl you want to have that relationship with your dad… but it didn’t pan out that way,” she said, teary-eyed. “This is my chance to put all the pain behind me, to use it as fuel for my music.” She ended up making the rounds, and the stories kept coming.
Genavieve Linkowski is an 18-year-old with big hopes and dreams of musical stardom. But she had to push that to the side when she was just 12. She had to care for her nine younger siblings, as her mother had suffered from heart failure. “She did every single thing in her power so I could just work on healing myself and it happened,” said her mom. “My prayer now is that her dreams come true.” Gladly, both mom’s and Genavieve’s dreams might come true, as Judge Bryan said, “You just had magic in your voice. You’re going to go high in this thing, I’m calling it.” Whatever ends up happening with these amazing contestants, we know they’re incredible spirit and strength will take them far.