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Connecting Through Music

AG worship leader Katie Kadan finds a new platform as a finalist on NBC's singing competition show.
When Katie Kadan took the stage in The Voice finale on Dec. 16, 2019, much of Chicagoland watched, including adherents of Impact Church in Maywood, Illinois. Kadan, whose powerful vocals and audience appeal propelled her to the finals, is worship leader at Impact as well as a favorite on the local blues scene.

Kadan, 38, has not always had the confidence evident on The Voice, where she finished third. Struggling with body image and self-esteem as a child and young adult, she experienced hurt feelings by people who claimed to follow Christ, but did not show kindness in their remarks.

“It seemed like if you were battling sin or brokenness, you had to hide it,” she says.

Her family eventually found a more grace-filled church environment, but when the pastor retired, legalism surfaced again. Many young people, including Kadan, drifted away. She had experienced enough positive Christian community, however, to miss it.

Living in New York for a while, she connected with a church her brother, Mark, recommended. When she returned to Chicago, her mother had started attending Hope Church in La Grange and Kadan often joined her.

“God has always had his hand on my life, gently guiding me to the right places,” she says.

Kadan developed her vocal talent early, singing gospel with her mother and two older sisters, Hollie and Sarah. She also plays keyboard. Although she only heard gospel at church, she gravitated toward blues and other popular music. She began attending local open mic nights, which led to gigs. It also gave opportunities to connect with people who might never show up at church.

“Any time you’re singing, using talent God gave you, you connect people with Him,” she says. “So many people are lonely, and I try to show love to people who need it. It may take time, but God softens their hearts.”

As pastors Anthony and Tracy Pelegrino prayerfully built a team to plant Impact Ministries, launched in 2017 from Hope Church, Anthony heard Kadan sing at a special event and invited her to get involved. Initially she declined. Still struggling with old wounds, she couldn’t imagine herself in a worship leader role.

Although not ready to participate, Kadan started attending Impact. A few months later, she told Pelegrino she would accept the worship position.

The church’s emphasis on helping the surrounding neighborhood also appealed to Kadan.

“Our church is an outreach church,” says Pelegrino, 44. “We have a lot of creative, artsy people, but also some who are very broken. We try to be a welcoming community.”

As Kadan grew spiritually, she asked God to open doors in her music career as He saw fit. In the meantime, a friend recommended her to The Voice team. When the call came, she initially hesitated about participating until Pelegrino pointed out she had been praying for such an opportunity. She accepted the audition, and the exciting-but-stressful journey to the finals began. The season started with 100 singers in blind auditions, where coaches pick teams. The field is narrowed to 48, then viewers vote on who returns. The final four compete in the last two shows.

Kadan believes God is using Christian artists in secular music contexts.

“Music connects people to their Creator,” she says. “Even nonbelievers acknowledge that creativity to write and interpret music has to come from somewhere.” Most of the several Christians among The Voice contestants and team grew up singing in church. From various backgrounds, they found commonality as they prayed for each other during anxious moments and supported a fellow contestant who received sad personal news during one of the show’s most intense weeks. Even some who didn’t profess Christianity noticed the sense of community and asked for prayer.

Pelegrino believes God has been preparing Kadan for something special.

“Katie is warm, loving, kind,” he says. “The personality you saw on the show, that’s really Katie. People relate to her.” Kadan says learning to accept herself and being authentic has been key.

Reaching the finals already has opened doors, including a possible performance tour.

“I would love to meet more of the people who became familiar with me through the show,” says Kadan, whose plans are now on her website.

Although her level of involvement at Impact Ministries may need to change, Kadan no longer struggles with the idea of church.

“You learn from people who have lived things,” Kadan says. “In a great church community, there’s a place for everyone. Music can be a big part of that.”

Kadan isn’t the first finalist on the NBC singing show with AG ties. In 2015, teenager Koryn Hawthorne, who attended Crossroads Church in Lafayette, Louisiana, placed fourth in The Voice competition.

Cynthia J Thomas

Cynthia J. Thomas worked for Assemblies of God U.S. Missions for six years before becoming primary caregiver for her father, a World War II veteran. She has served as a counselor for victims of domestic violence and women facing crisis pregnancies. Cindy and her husband, Phil, a schoolteacher, volunteer in youth outreach and have three adult children and one granddaughter.