O, Say Can You Sing?

Written by Denise Watson-Quinalty in the July 2009 Issue
UCO graduate Tina Brown may suffer from stage fright, but her six-year-old daughter, Sahara, doesn’t. “It amazes me,” says Tina. “I took speech in college at UCO and thought I was going to pass out in front of people. I cried afterwards. She definitely gets her confidence from her father.”

Sahara recently placed as a semifinalist in the “O Say Can You Sing” contest, sponsored by the Smithsonian Museum and USA Weekend. Sahara, like all of the contestants, submitted her entry on the popular web site, YouTube. Entries featured over 860 vocalists singing “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

The contest kicks off “Star-Spangled Summer,” celebrating the grand reopening of the National Museum of American History during America’s patriotic holiday season with a focus on the flag that inspired the national anthem. Winners – including Sahara – were selected according to overall appeal of vocal performance, originality, lyrical accuracy and popularity on YouTube.

Although Sahara didn’t take the grand prize, she did place among the 15 semifinalists – not bad considering the number of people that entered. She was the youngest competitor and the only one from Oklahoma. She was also the only contestant to carry a five-star YouTube rating throughout the contest.

At the end of her clip, Sahara was asked why she wanted to win the contest. Her response was instantaneous: “Because I love the soldiers!”

Sahara’s interest in the contest came in December, when she sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” in Shawnee’s Christmas parade. She made such an impression that veterans sought her out afterward to thank her. A former teacher saw Sahara’s performance and urged her to participate in the contest.

Asked if she ever gets nervous performing for large crowds, Sahara emphatically answers, “No!”

Sahara’s singing career began early in life. Her mother says she hummed to herself before she could talk. “My husband noticed when she was two that her tone and pitch were right on key with every song he sang,” says Tina. “It wasn’t long after that that Sahara could memorize and sing songs as well as him, if not better.” Sahara sings while she plays, colors, and does just about anything else. She sings when she goes to bed and starts singing again when she wakes up.

Asked who her favorite singer is, Sahara screams, “Hannah Montana!” Tina says Sahara learns most of her songs by watching YouTube. But her favorite song, bar none, is “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

While many that hear her sing see her as a professional vocalist one day, Sahara has different plans. After welcoming home some military personnel in May, she announced that she wants to be a soldier. She’s not ready to give up her singing yet, though. Before taking up soldiering, she hopes to be an American Idol.

Although her parents admit to being very protective of their little girl, they’ll support her regardless of what she wants to do. Another of Sahara’s goals – singing for the president. The attention she’s received so far might get her closer to that goal. She’s already performed for countless soldiers and keeps collecting medals from members of the armed forces – including generals.

Regardless of her plans for the future, Sahara’s got plenty of time to think about them. A six-year-old with this much talent has plenty of time to contemplate her destiny. But with a commanding lead over other kids her age, her future isn’t just wide open – it’s virtually unbarred.

Check out Sahara’s contest entry on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1jqjcm-A-Qw
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