Nicole Donate, who sings professionally as Nicole Rose, is too young to have ever seen a concert by the Fabulous Burd Boys. But she's heard a lot about them.

The Fabulous Burd Boys are considered among New Jersey's most popular country music bands in the '60s and '70s.

They also brought many big-name country singers to their Hickory Grove Opry Farm near Califon, New Jersey.

Nicole Rose, 23, is grand niece of The Burd Boys and she's embarking on a career of her own which seems to be getting a shotgun start and has already spread beyond the borders of New Jersey.

In just the past five years, Rose has won a car in a singing competition, opened for such stars as Tracy Byrd, Willie Nelson, and Connie Smith, and hosts her own radio program.

On Sunday, May 16, she'll be opening for John Michael Montgomery at Penn's Peak in Jim Thorpe. Montgomery is known for such megahits as "Sold (Grundy County Auction)" and "I Swear."

"I'm really excited and we'll see what happens," said Nicole of the many positive things currently happening. "I'm excited for the journey ahead."

A resident of Hacketstown, N.J., Rose travels to Jim Thorpe every weekend for her Sunday morning radio program, "Roundup," during which she takes song requests. The program is live from 10 a.m. to noon and is rebroadcast at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

Recently, she performed in Nashville, Tenn. at a ROPE (Reunion of Professional Entertainers) event. Country singer Mandy Barnett was the featured performer.

Numerous music publishing executives were in attendance and raved about Nicole's performance of Rose. She sang two songs, the Hank Williams classic "Your Cheatin' Heart" and a Patsy Cline number "Write Me In Care of the Blues."

Her repertoire includes songs by Sugarland, Carrie Underwood, and Miranda Lambert. Her main influences include Patsy Cline, Underwood, Martina McBride, Alan Jackson, Toby Keith, and Hank Snow.

Nicole has been singing since she was 4; publicly since she was 11.

Her biggest break came five years ago when she entered a "Gimme the Mike" competition in Philadelphia. There were 1,000 contestants, with the grand prize being a Kia Spectrum. She sang "Blue" by LeAnn Rimes which made her a finalist, then "Crazy" by Patsy Cline and won.

She graduates this spring from Northampton County Community College where she is studying radio and television. Thursday night at the college, she received the prestigious Marconi Award for academic excellence in radio and TV. She's also been on the Dean's List at the school.

She's the daughter of Anthony and Diane Donatone. Her father is a chef and owns a luncheonette, which the family operates. She has a sister, Kayla, age 14.

"My mom always sang to me," she said, explaining how she became so fond of singing at a young age. "My parents always enjoyed country music. They always gave me support. They encouraged me to enter contests."

She sang in school clubs, at benefits, in competitions, and at weddings.

The ROPE event in Nashville rates as one of her most exciting opportunities.

Not only did she get to meet many people affiliated with country music, she also met Charley Dicks, the husband of the late Patsy Cline.

Nicole said she used to play piano and is planning to learn how to play guitar. She also has co-written one song and hopes to do more songwriting.

Casey Parker, the general manager of Penn's Peak Radio, told other co-workers about Nicole's singing ability and she was asked to open for Tracy Byrd at a recent concert there.

The John Michael Montgomery concert is her next public performance.

Performing wasn't always a priority for Nicole. She said, "When I was younger, I wanted to be a teacher. As I got into my teens, I decided this is what I want to do. To be a professional singer would be my ultimate dream."

She likely be singing at some fairs and festivals around the area this summer.

She has sung at the Hickory Grove Opry Farm, which is still owned by the Burd family. Will she one day be the major star they bring back to the Hickory Grove Opry Farm to perform?

Stay tuned.