A long-time resident of Kansas City, Kansas, where she has found sanctuary from the turmoil of the entertainment industry, Oleta Adams also remains anchored by her upbringing in the Pacific Northwest. The youngest of three girls and two boys, Oleta spent her formative years in Seattle before traveling over the mountains at age six to Yakima, Washington, an idyllic town of 60,000. She first demonstrated her budding vocal gifts in the Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church where her father served as minister.
By the time Oleta was eleven, she was directing and accompanying four choirs, having already established herself as a piano prodigy. She credits her further musical development in junior high school to Lee Farrell, "the brilliant Julliard-trained teacher and voice coach who changed my life." School provided another outlet for Oleta Adams: the theatrical stage. In her senior year she broke barriers and traditions as the star of Hello Dolly! admitting that "early on I realized the pleasures of being a big fish in a small pond."
Turning down the chance to pursue an operatic career as a lyric soprano, along with a scholarship to Pacific Lutheran University, Oleta instead spent a summer in Europe before heading to Los Angeles in the early 1970s. One demo tape and $5,000 later, she discovered that the disco movement had deafened music executives. Oleta's gospel-flavored voice was not "in." With the help of Coach Lee Farrell she wound up in Kansas City, where she launched her career playing piano bars, hotel lounges and showrooms.