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Singing ventriloquist, 'America's Got Talent' winner and eighth-grade student brings puppets to Portland for a show April 26 at Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall

COURTESY: TODD ROSENBURG - 'America's Got Talent' winner Darci Lynne and friends, including Petunia (left) and Oscar, perform April 26 at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall.Darci Lynne was only 12 years old when she won "America's Got Talent," displaying singing and ventriloquism beyond her years.

She's now 14 and a veteran of the entertainment world, touring the country and already having hosted her own NBC television special.

"My life has definitely changed, but in a positive way, for sure," Lynne says.

Lynne and her puppet friends will perform for the local audience, Friday, April 26, at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall.

Lynne, an Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, eighth grader, says she has stayed stable through her newfound fame.

"My family keeps me grounded," says Lynne, the daughter of Clarke and Misty Farmer. "My faith and my school and just living in Oklahoma City keeps me grounded.

"It's a challenge for school, but my teachers are really flexible. Most of my friends and kids at school are really supportive."

Two years ago she nervously performed her audition on the "AGT" stage and wowed judges Simon Cowell, Howie Mandel, Heidi Klum and Mel B with her unique ability to sing and perform comedy through ventriloquism.

By season's end, she had been declared champion. She has made a Christmas special for NBC (for 6.5 million viewers), attracted 21 million views on YouTube, appeared on other TV shows, placed second in the "America's Got Talent: Champions" show and performed all over the country (grossing $5 million in ticket sales in 2018 alone).

"I didn't really think about winning, not that I didn't believe in myself, it really didn't come to mind, 'You can win this,'" she says.

Now, with her popularity, "sometimes it doesn't feel real, but it is a cool reality."

It's an art form that often takes years to master, and it was wondrous how Lynne, in her "AGT" skits, was able to sing and entertain through her characters: Petunia, a diva-esque rabbit; Oscar, a shy and soulful mouse; and Edna, a sarcastic old woman.

Lynne started singing at age 6 and started learning ventriloquism around 10. To combine the two talents is not as easy as she makes it look (and sound).

"It was challenging at first, but I got the hang of it. I taught myself in the bathroom mirror," she says. "You're just talking with your mouth closed, that's the way I see it. I looked up to (former 'AGT' winner) Terry Fator and Jeff Dunham and coach Gary Owen.

"Once I got the hang of it, I started learning about old ventriloquists like Edgar Bergen and Shari Lewis (and Lambchop). It was cool to pick some things up."

Yes, but how does she sing so well without opening her mouth?

"The only people I know who do it are Tery Fator and me," she says. "It's way more difficult. Singing alone without closing your mouth is so technical; you have to open your throat and mouth on vowels so sound comes out right and full. When your mouth is closed, you can't open your mouth and throat on vowels. You have to figure out a way around it. It's a lot of practice. Certain songs, high notes are hard to sing."

The characters are part of her imagination, and she hopes to introduce more characters to her show, which has now taken her to 39 states. Oregon will be state No. 40.

"I'm just taking it step by step and going along the way," Lynne says.

Darci Lynne and her "Fresh Out of the Box" tour stops at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 S.W. Broadway, at 7 p.m. Friday,

April 26. Tickets start at $29.75, portland5.com. For more on Lynne, see www.darcilynne.com.