NEWARK — Jane Marczewski, a singer known as Nightbirde who grew up in Zanesville, struck a powerful emotional chord with her. Broadcast of America’s Got Talent Performance Tuesday night.
Tears filled the eyes of the judges of America’s Got Talent, her friends and family at a watch party at The Trout Club in Newark and former colleagues at the Olive Garden in Heath, as well as AGT watchers across the country.
Marczewski, 30, continuing a long battle with cancer, received the golden buzzer from AGT judge Simon Cowell to forward her directly to the competition’s live show.
She sang “It’s Okay”, a song she wrote about her difficult battle with cancer and her determination to stay positive and hopeful during the worst of times. Marczewski said she has a “2% chance of survival” with “some cancer in my lungs, spine and liver”, singing about her struggle through her song.
The singer said she took the opportunity to tell everyone that “you can’t wait until life is no longer difficult to decide to be happy” and added: “I have a 2% chance of survival, but 2% is not 0% Two percent is something and I wish people knew how great it is.”
After she finished singing, the other judges raved about her performance, but Cowell said, “There have been some great singers this year and I’m not going to give you a yes. I’m going to give you something else.”
Cowell then pressed the gold buzzer and brought confetti to Marczewski for a dramatic conclusion to the two-hour show.
Marczewski said she did her best, which the audience seemed to like, so she wondered why Cowell didn’t seem supportive.
“At first I was so shocked, it seemed like he wouldn’t get me through it, and I was really disappointed about that,” Marczewski said. “And then there was a pause and he reached for the buzzer.”
“When confetti fell, it was like that moment was the only moment that ever existed in the universe.”
The pressure of the moment, singing in front of large personal audiences and millions on television, and talking about your battle with cancer, was not as overwhelming for Marczewski as most would expect.
“I tried to keep my expectations high,” Marczewski said. “I expected to do my best and try to maintain that I’m not there to impress people. I’m here to give people a gift. It helps me not to be so nervous. With everything I experienced, when you get this close to death, it changes your perspective and you are not afraid of anything.
“I wanted to be the person who would sing in a dark time, even if there was no truth, it would get better. I think that’s a gift that was given to me. Everyone has dark stories and dark times. If I set an example can be and talk about dark times, it gives everyone more freedom to talk about their hardships.”
Her bravery impressed all who watched, especially at her viewing party, attended by family and friends who know what she’s been through over the years.
Kate Klaus, who grew up with Marczewski in Zanesville and graduated with her from the Licking County Christian Academy in 2009, said AGT’s performance was incredible and inspiring.
“I knew she was talented, but after all the hardships she’s been through over the past year, I think she’s grown,” Klaus said. “It was almost like a beam of light radiating from her. She was on top of her mountain. As if she has conquered Everest.
“We couldn’t be happier for her. If anyone in the world deserved it, it’s her. She has the talent to keep going.”
Jennifer Vilardo, who worked with Marczewski at Olive Garden in Heath for several years, said she was working, but that didn’t stop her from watching.
“I watched as I was working and I cried,” Vilardo said. “Tears rolled down my cheeks. When she entered, there was no one in the restaurant. We talked loudly and we cried. She has a heart of gold, that girl.”
Jolyn Carpenter, from Newark, worked with her at Olive Garden.
“She occupied tables and she was okay with that,” said Carpenter. “She had an infectious spirit that impressed everyone she ever met. She has a calm, inspiring demeanor. She’s a good person. A good spirit.”
Marczewski said she will remain in the area until she returns to Los Angeles in August for AGT, but continues her battle with cancer.
“I had treatment a few weeks ago and we are crossing our fingers that it has taken care of everything,” she said.