LEOMINSTER – Lavender Darcangelo and her dad Wil arrived at the WGBH Boston Public Library studio in October for her segment on “Boston Public Radio” with Jim Braudeand Margery Eagon and, as they made their way in, their joy was palpable.
It was the second time the 28-year-old singing talent and her dad were invited to be guests on the popular midday talk show and the two were still talking excitedly about the giant billboard of Lavender they spotted on the Mass Pike when they were driving into the city.
A shows producer then came out to greet them and said he would find a spot for them to warm up their vocal cords. While they had been guests before at the WGBH studio, this was their first time at the library studio. Lavender, who is blind and autistic, said “it smells good in here” as she took in the aromas coming from the Newsfeed Cafe.
Wil Darcangelo sported a Hawaiian shirt with a design that craftily incorporated the face of his husband, Jamie Darcangelo, who wasn’t able to join them this time. Wil and Lavender sat and listened to the show while chatting with two women in the audience before being ushered off to warm up before their guest spot during the one o’clock hour.
The Oct. 20 episode featured a number of guests including the dynamic father and daughter duo, who chatted with the hosts and sang two songs. They talked to Braude and Eagan about Lavender’s America’s Got Talent experience, which wrapped up in September.
“She captured the heart of America…she captured me and Margery’s hearts and our listeners,” Braude said of Lavender, with Eagan adding “what an incredible triumph.”
Lavender, who said the hosts are “awesome” and “so fun,” talked to them about forgetting song lyrics just before her final AGT performance, joking that “the irony was that I wasn’t even nervous. And she spoke about becoming close to her fellow AGT contestants, “the nicest people,” and proudly bragged about her “perfect pitch.”
“Even though AGT had its overwhelming moments for me, the show was very good about protecting my well-being,” she said. “I’m glad that adventure is over now though and I’m looking forward to all that this next chapter brings. It’s so fun seeing my dreams come true!”
Although she didn’t come out on top at the end of the AGT run, the Leominster resident had a phenomenal journey on the show and made some incredible industry connections because of it. During the AGT live final performances show on Sept. 26, Lavender sang “Only Love Can Hurt Like This” with award winning songwriter Diane Warren, who wrote the song, accompanying her on the piano.
“It’s kind of amazing that both local and mainstream media have been so captivated by this whole story, and by Lavender as an individual,” Wil said of the attention his daughter has received because of AGT. “It makes it all the more meaningful to us that we are reaching people.”
Lavender once again sang Warren’s song during Braude and Eagan’s show with her dad by her side. Wil watched his daughter adoringly as she nailed another performance and rubbed his arms as he got goosebumps.
Then the two sang a harmonious duet, an original song they wrote together called “Will I Ever?”
“Lavender was inspired to write it following the death of two Tribe kids six weeks apart from one another,” Wil said of what inspired the song, referencing the Tribe Music Mentorship Project afterschool music empowerment program he ran at Fitchburg High School from 2010 to 2018, where he and Lavender met.
“The first, Gillian Lambert from cystic fibrosis, and then Chris Brinkley, six weeks later in a house fire,” Wil said of the heartbreak of losing two of his students. “It was so devastating to the Tribe, and we were so grateful that Lavender was inspired to write such a beautiful song in tribute to them.”
They recorded the song with Lavender’s vocals for the Tribe’s album, “Strange Among the Different,” a project that involved 250 people ranging in age from eight to 76, and Lavender will re-record it for her own album that she’s working on, “Mosaic.”
“So far it is the only full song Lavender has ever written but she has ideas for others,” Wil said.
Braude said of all the guests they have had on their show, Lavender’s appearances have been his “favorite segments” and added that he wished he “could do it over and over again.”
“So spectacular,” he said at the end of Lavender and Wil’s spot.
It’s been a whirlwind since Lavender wrapped up America’s Got Talent. She and Wil had just gotten back from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland not too long before the Boston radio show taping, where Lavender spoke at the Yass Educational Foundation Gala about her idea for a nontraditional school that she plans to open one day.
“Cleveland was a revelation, to be honest,” Wil said recently. “As overdramatic as that might sound, the minute Lavender began hearing some of the panelists speaking about different and more compassionate, inclusive ways of approaching education, she was immediately moved to tears. She was so taken aback by the notion that her ideas are not weird at all, but just what people have been asking for.
“Even more than music, her desire to create a school she would have and will thrive in is foremost on the list of her life goals,” he said. “She dreamed of it without knowing there would be any support for it, or a pathway toward it actually existing. AGT has not only provided that pathway, but it has also exposed her to all of the wonderful minds who know exactly how to bring it about for her. We plan to have a summit in the spring to begin the planning of her dream.”
Wil talked about their experience in Ohio to Braude and Eagan and said that he was diagnosed with ADHD in his 30s. He said their Cleveland trip was eye opening and that he is thrilled with “how far we’ve come with neurodiversity.
“I’m really encouraged with how the world is now,” he said.
Lavender performed on stage at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston for the RFK Community Alliance annual gala on Nov. 9 and in December, the family will head to Las Vegas to begin rehearsals for her appearances at the Luxor AGT show early next year.
In addition, Lavender continues to work on “Mosaic,” her debut solo album. She has said that the wide variety of songs and styles that will be included in the album aim to honor and raise awareness of the diversity within the autism and disability community.
Warren loved Lavender’s AGT performance of her song so much that she suggested another of her songs for Lavender to include on “Mosaic” and invited Lavender to rehearse with her in her Hollywood studio after AGT wrapped. As of press time nearly $14,000 has been raised to help with the costs of recording Lavender’s album through a GoFundMe that Wil set up.
Lavender recently appeared on a special episode of the long running Fitchburg Access Television show “Barbara & You.” The Oct. 21 show was taped at Fitchburg State University with a live audience and during it, Mayor Stephen DiNatale presented Lavender with a key to the city.
“’Barbara & You’ was wonderful,” Wil said. “We have a long history with her show. I wrote and recorded her current theme song and have been on the show many times both with and without Lavender for various things over the years. To have the experience of recording it with a live studio audience about our adventure was an honor.”
Lavender said she enjoyed being a guest on the show and said that “Barbara was so nice to me.”
“I was complimented that she was even a little nervous before the show started, like I’m a celebrity or something!” she said. “I’m feeling like the future has so many more possibilities now than even my imagination could think of. I’m so excited!.”