Bryant has a mission. Not only to make it big in her chosen
profession, the dream of most entertainers, but to make a difference
in the lives of young people along the way. The relative newcomer
to the world of country music wants to use whatever success she
may achieve onstage to help children in the classroom.
"When I do well in music, I do well for
the children," Bryant said. "It's
easy for us to point fingers, say that parents should spend more
time on their children's education, but today it takes two incomes
to support a family, and parents are only human."
Bryant will be part of a concert on Fremont Street beginning at
2 p.m. May 21, singing two or three songs from her second album,
She was inspired to do something for the students by the 1999 tragedy
at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., in which a dozen students
and a teacher were gunned down by two students who then committed
suicide. "My heart has always
gone out to children," said Bryant, who does not have
children of her own. "When I
began my singing career, I wanted to give back and this was a way."
She said she researched programs for children and discovered there
was a lot of money available for intervention for those 12 and older,
but not so much for the younger ones. So in 2000 she wrote a check
to help those in grades K-6, starting the Nancy Ferro Learning for
Life Foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides academic
tutoring and character education. "I
am the worst fundraiser," Bryant said. "I
can't ask for money, so I raise it through my music."
The foundation was named for Bryant's grandmother, who at age 12
lost her mother and assumed the responsibility of raising five siblings.
Bryant says early intervention can give children a fighting chance,
adding that although her grandmother lacked an education, she taught
valuable lessons in faith, integrity and compassion to her children
Bryant sold her first album, "Stones Throw
Away," over the Internet and used money from the sales
to start the Learning for Life program at the St. Pius X Elementary
School in Nashville, Tenn. Since then another Learning for Life
program has been launched in Rockville, Md., and in May a third
one is poised to open in Los Angeles. The programs provide teachers,
counselors and education material needed to tutor children. Although
Bryant grew up in a musically inclined family and always enjoyed
singing, she started out with a career in marketing. Her father
was a gifted tenor, and an aunt studied classical composition and
piano at Juilliard. She was born in Norwich, N.Y., but grew up in
"There were endless mountains
- it was a very good childhood," Bryant said. She attended
the University of Florida and pursued a career in marketing after
getting a degree in communications. "I
have always been creative," she said. "Drawing.
Singing. Advertising seemed like it would be fun - writing jingles,
coming up with concepts for products."
She began her marketing career making $15,000 a year. Six years
later, in 1999, she was making an annual salary in the six figures
and gave it up to chase her dream of country music. "I
knew I was taking a big risk," Bryant said. "But
I always say dream big, love big and stay positive - and music has
always been part of my dreams." A lot of entertainers
have influenced her - Shania Twain, Trisha Yearwood, Reba McEntire,
Elton John, Garth Brooks. "I
love true artistry," Bryant said. And children. "My
goal with the foundation is to raise enough funds that it can run
on the interest."
By Jerry Fink
Las Vegas Sun