For the last two years, Lowe’s employees have brought their talents to Las Vegas for INVEST, the company’s annual meeting. From singing and beatboxing to tap dancing and guitar playing, the winners of the annual Lowe’s Has Talent competition prove they bring more than just home improvement knowledge and skills to the table. This year was no different – thirteen employees from across the U.S. and Canada attended the meeting and rocked out in front of more than 3,500 of their Lowe’s coworkers. Each had amazing talents and even more unique stories. Here are just a few of them:
Keith Swinney: Small town, big sound
Keith Swinney laughs when asked about his hometown.
“Well, it’s pretty small,” he said. “The population is 480, counting the horses and chickens.”
Holton, Indiana, may be tiny, but it’s where Swinney planted his roots. It’s a place where he’s made a lot of memories … and a lot of music.
Swinney began playing the guitar when he was 11 years old. His great-grandmother taught him, along with other family members. The results were awesome jam sessions at every holiday or family gathering and a love for music Keith couldn’t deny. He also couldn’t help but share his natural talent. By the time he was 17, he’d won numerous talent competitions, started his own band, recorded a CD and even opened a sold-out show for country music legend Merle Haggard. Not too shabby for a kid still in high school, right?
That’s also the same time he heard about job opportunities at the Lowe’s regional distribution center (RDC) in North Vernon, Indiana. A few of his friends worked at the RDC after school, so he decided to give it a shot. Plus, it offered the perfect schedule – he could work during the week and play music on the weekends. He started with Lowe’s in March of 2000, with plans to work there until he saved enough money to follow his dreams to Nashville. But, much like Holton drew him in, Lowe’s did the same. Eighteen years later, he’s proud to still be part of the Lowe’s family.
He’s held several roles during his tenure, but is currently enjoying being an on-the-job trainer. He helps new employees learn the equipment, processes and responsibilities of their jobs.
“I love working with new hires and being part of their first Lowe’s experience,” Swinney said. “It’s great to help them learn their job and build friendships.”
Most of his RDC coworkers know about his guitar-playing talent. He’s hosted several jams and mini-concerts at work, and plays around town with his band, The Keith Swinney Band. While it wasn’t a surprise to his colleagues when he won the Lowe’s Has Talent competition, Swinney appreciates all the support he received.
“Everyone shook my hand and wished me luck,” he said. “It’s really cool that everyone supported me.”
Swinney represented his RDC family well on stage at INVEST, rocking it out on his guitar with four other Lowe’s Has Talent winners.
But he’s not done performing. He plans to continue working at Lowe’s, and playing and traveling with his band. His goal is to get back into songwriting – something he’s especially passionate about.
“It’s not about the smoke and lights for me,” he said. “I don’t feel like I need all that. My music may not be the fanciest, flashiest or greatest, but it’s from my heart.”
Aleah Baillargeon: From shy to showstopper
Strong. Powerful. Resounding.
That describes Aleah Baillargeon’s voice. With a sound like Adele, she’s a force to be reckoned with on stage, which makes it hard to believe that at one time, she was so shy that she struggled to even talk to people.
Baillargeon’s passion for singing started early. She performed her first concert at the age of two, belting out tunes from a Snow White concert for her parents at their home in Winnipeg, Manitoba in Canada. Her mom, who was also a singer, knew then she had a stellar voice, but it was a few years before Baillargeon would share her talent with others.
Baillargeon attended a French school until eighth grade, when she transferred to an English secondary school. It was a hard move – Baillargeon didn’t know anyone and had a tough time making friends. She was quiet, reserved and painfully shy. Music was her escape.
“Music is so much more than just … well, music to me,” she said. “It mellows me out and calms me down.”
She knew she needed to break out of her shell and wanted the confidence to sing in front of people. So, she signed up for a music class. Her like-minded, and like-talented, classmates became some of her closest friends and she got opportunities to build her confidence through shows, plays and performances.
“Music class put me in a situation where I had to be on stage,” she said. “There was no ‘being a chicken.’ I had to be there or I would let down my teacher and class. It made me push myself because I had people relying on me.”
The rest is history. Since graduating high school, Baillargeon has been the lead singer in a band, performed at various shows and gigs with multiple artists, and recorded songs. She also got a job with Rona, a Lowe’s-owned Canadian brand. She’s worked at a Rona store for a little more than a year, and loves it.
“The people there are honestly just good people,” she said. “I love working with everyone at my job.”
She didn’t tell many co-workers about her voice, but her secret was uncovered when they found out she’d won the Lowe’s Has Talent competition.
“They [co-workers] were so happy,” Baillargeon said. “The entire store went crazy. I really felt the love from everybody!”
And she didn’t disappoint them in Vegas. Baillargeon performed a duet with a fellow winner on stage, and belted out a tune to the delight of the crowd.
She’s heading back to Ontario, but still has a lot of exciting opportunities coming up. She plans to make an album with a fellow artist and she may join a new band.
“I definitely want to move forward in music,” she said. “I’m just going to see where it takes me.”
Jonatan Lopez: The beatboxing champion
By day, Jonatan Lopez is a sales specialist at the Lowe’s store in North Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He assists customers with their projects, helps them select products and answers their questions.
But most nights and weekends, you can catch him battling. Not with weapons, but with beats.
Lopez started beatboxing when he was a young teenager. He admits he didn’t even realize that’s what he was doing until he saw someone beatbox at a high school talent competition. He soon learned a whole beatboxing scene existed, and he was hooked. He’d dabbled in songwriting and electronic music making before, but loved that beatboxing allowed him to share his thoughts and emotions quickly.
“It’s a very intimate form of expression,” he explained. “I like that I can express myself right away.”
He practiced diligently and by 19, had become “pretty obsessed” with beatboxing. In 2011, he entered his first beatboxing competition … and won. Since then, he’s added a long list of accolades to his musical resume, including: the 2011 American Beatbox Champion, 2013 International MidWest Beatbox Champion and 2015 YGEA Beatboxer of the Year. Under the artist name JFLO Beatbox, he’s performed at more than 70 venues across the country, and at multiple festivals and recording studios. He’s thought to be one of the pioneers of the new school U.S. beatboxing scene. Oh, and you might have seen him in this commercial a few years ago.
For him, beatboxing is about being yourself and putting your own style or twist on things.
“When it comes to art or music, everyone is always influenced by something or someone. Nothing is original in that sense. It’s more how you manage to make it your own.”
And while he typically keeps his beatboxing separate from his work at Lowe’s, he was excited to perform at INVEST. He beatboxed alongside two other Lowe’s Has Talent winners, who danced and rapped with his beat.
Although INVEST is over, there’s no slowdown in sight for Lopez. In addition to performing in the U.S., he has plans to take his talent to Europe, where the beatboxing scene is more established.
“As of right now, I’m not sure what the future holds,” he said. “But I do it [beatboxing] because I love it. If I continue to work hard, something good will come out of it.”