PAXTON, Ill. (WCIA) — It’s not every day you see a hometown teenager on national television, but this was the case for many people in Paxton on Monday while watching 18-year-old Gina Miles on NBC’s singing competition “The Voice.”

“It was so exciting to watch her live on television,” said Virginia Buler, Gina’s aunt. “She has been working hard on her music these last few years, and being on the show is such a huge step for her in her career.”

Gina performed a cover of Katy Perry’s song titled “The One That Got Away” on Monday’s episode. Judges Kelly Clarkson and Niall Horan turned around in their chairs for her during the performance.

“Performing on national television was a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” said Gina, who now lives in Sacramento, Calif. with another aunt. “I’m so grateful that I was given the opportunity. I was nervous because I’d never done a performance of that scale before, but I’m so excited that things went well!” 

Paxton resident Deane Geiken was Gina’s next-door neighbor for around 10 years. He said he always saw Gina as a shy girl, and never knew she had such wonderful musical talent.

“She was simply the neighbor girl who would help her dad with DJ gigs during our big Pells Street Halloween party in Paxton,” said Geiken. “She always seemed to be a shy and reserved girl but when her dad was playing tunes she would be out there dancing for all to see. I would join her for a bit while handing out candy.”

During the early days of the pandemic three years ago, Geiken said Gina’s father Ryan leaned across the fence and asked him to listen to something.

“He knew I was the station director for WPCD at Parkland College and had some experience in reviewing and critiquing music for potential airplay,” Geiken said. “Well, he plays this demo song for me on his phone and I am really impressed. And then he tells me that it was Gina. I was flabbergasted. I didn’t think there was any way it could be!”

Gina spent most of the remote time during the pandemic at home honing her voice and talent. Now, her father Ryan, who was at the show’s taping, said he is happy she is going to get to do something she loves for the rest of her life and be successful at it.

“It was an amazing experience,” Ryan said. “I was so excited for her and nervous all at the same time. It was great that I got to be a part of her journey.” 

Paxton neighbor Bobbi Hardy said she was excited to watch her perform on national television too.

“I have many of her songs on my playlist, so I listen to her all of the time,” said Hardy. “It was super exciting to watch her perform on stage and see her dad so proud of her. It should be great to see how far she goes on the show and in her career.”

Paxton citizens continue to support her musical journey.

“All of Paxton is proud of her, especially since she gave our little town a shout-out,” Geiken said. “I would not be surprised if she makes it all the way to the top of the show. I have never watched the show before but I will now.”

Allie Keck from nearby Neoga, Ill. was also on the show earlier this season.