Jim T. Gammill, Special to Valley News
Arts Council Menifee named Nicole Farrell as its selection for May’s Artist of the Month, in honor of her musical achievements, community involvement and altruistic spirit.
Farrell originally hails from Quebec, Canada, and is one of 17 children. Farrell’s family loved music and would often sing together, it is no surprise that music and singing would later become a large part of her life. The family moved to California in 1962 and made the trek from Canada to California on a train.
“A few of my siblings had already grown into adulthood and gotten married back home, but just imagine, 11 kids and their parents traveling all that way by train! It was really something,” Farrell said.
While on the train, the children would often sing together, and some of the other passengers took notice of the family’s talent. One passenger was particularly impressed and exchanged contact information with her parents. The family took up residence in California in September 1962, and the train passenger, who was involved with the Manhattan Beach chamber of commerce, contacted them to sing Christmas carols at the city’s tree lighting ceremony in December. Later, the family was also asked to sing for prisoners at the Los Angeles Jail.
Nicole Farrell came to live in San Diego with her husband, John Farrell, both of whom had children from previous relationships.
“We are like the true Brady Bunch,” Farrell said with a smile, “I had three girls and a boy, and John had three boys. Of course, all of the children love music.”
The children blessed John and Nicole Farrell with 17 grandchildren, ranging in age from two to 18. While living in North County San Diego, Farrell was awarded by a top karaoke company for her superior sound and hostess skills.
Farrell and her husband moved to Sun City in 2007 after she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She faced surgery after surgery on her road to recovery and was diagnosed with a brain tumor along the way. The future looked bleak for Farrell at the time, and the couple needed an affordable place to live.
About that time, the couple visited a former Sun City eatery called Boston Billy’s and met Robbie Motter, who was an influential member of the National Association of Female Entrepreneurs. Motter was setting up for karaoke, and after seeing Farrell’s interest, he suggested that she participate. Farrell was uncertain if she was feeling up to it but agreed anyway. She sang “La Vie En Rose” and was enthusiastically received by all those in attendance.
“I didn’t know what to expect when I sang that night, but I do have Robbie to thank for breaking me out of my shell,” the singer said.
In the following years, Farrell became increasingly active with the city of Menifee, including events for Arts Council Menifee, and provided sound equipment and DJ services for countless events over the years alongside her husband.
“John is so supportive and is my absolute hero. I couldn’t do what I do without him by my side,” Nicole Farrell said.
In 2013, Farrell was invited to perform at the 2013 Menifee’s Got Talent. She said she was under the impression that she would be doing so as a guest. Farrell performed her signature song, “La Vie En Rose,” and handed out roses during her performance.
“And then they tricked me. I thought I was there as a supporting act, and I ended up winning the competition,” Farrell said.
Later, Farrell sang at several Menifee tree lighting ceremonies and other local events. She has been recognized several times for her community involvement over the past decade, including nominations for Citizen of the Year for two years in a row, nominations for Business of the Year for five consecutive years.
Farrell has volunteered with the Menifee/Sun City Women’s Club and contributed to the fight against child trafficking by knitting special dolls for children who were victims of trafficking abuse. In 2015, Farrell received a “Lifetime Achievement Award” from former President Barack Obama for her humanitarian work and received similar recognition in 2018 from President Donald Trump.
Lately, Farrell has been offering mentorship at The Boys and Girls Club to help build the confidence of the children and help them perform in front of an audience. In January, the singer performed at the Hemet Opera House, which is owned and operated by Eve and Rick Faulkner and features in a Roaring 20s themed show.
It was the first time that Farrell sang opera. She said she was given a warm reception and was invited to perform at a “Paris tearoom” inspired show in April that has been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Along with the Hemet performance, which has since been rescheduled for June 27, Farrell also had several performances in the Palm Springs area, arranged by Bette King Productions, that will also be rescheduled for later in the year.