Participation in South Aiken High School’s band program in the late 1990s took Wendell Simpkins to a variety of venues around the state.
A generation later, the USC Aiken graduate is a little farther afield – more than 4,000 miles to the northeast, and all the way across the Atlantic, stopping just south of Switzerland.
The professional singer hangs his hat in northern Italy, with Milan as his base of operations. He is specifically in the Piazza Loreto, where he conducts choirs and bands and shares musical messages in such styles as gospel, jazz, pop and R&B.
“I’m all about being positive and sharing positive vibes and loving one another … in spite of the mistakes, in spite of what happened in the past. I’m all about moving on and forgiving and loving at this place in my life,” he said.
His first raucous ovation was from a decidedly local crowd at East Aiken Elementary School in the late 1980s.
“I sang ‘The Greatest Love of All,’ by Whitney Houston,” he said, recalling his teacher as being “Mrs. Coakley.”