Taylor Ware |
at the Elizabethtown Fair,
(23 August 2006)
The biggest draw at the 33rd annual Elizabethtown Fair on this warm Wednesday evening was seen strutting across the stage on two legs, rather than prancing through the livestock exhibition hall on four.
Taylor Ware, the nation's newest country singing and yodeling sensation, packed the tent in the far corner of the rural fairgrounds for three lively performances. Fresh from her home in the hills of Tennessee, she only recently rocketed into the forefront of the entertainment scene on NBC's America's Got Talent. Last week, she was voted into the finals and, although she didn't win, she finished in the top three.
And she's only 11 years old.
After her second performance of the day, Taylor -- dressed in a purple floral blouse and calf-length jeans and with twin ponytails hanging down past her shoulders -- bounded onstage with a big grin as she ran through a tonsil-stretching series of trills, six-note runs and other vocal acrobatics. With a strong, clear voice, an incredible capacity to sustain long notes and the presence of someone far older, she easily won over the crowd with songs like "Cowboy's Sweetheart," "Take My Brother Please" and Dolly Parton's "9 to 5."
Even her 6-year-old brother, Harris, got into the act, mixing a bit of yodeling, a snippet of the song "Hey, Good Lookin'" and other antics into a brief portion of his sister's show. Afterwards, Taylor was posing with babies and signing photos, CDs, t-shirts, pants and occasional limbs with the confidence of a seasoned performer.
With sixth grade still in her future, she admitted a singing career at this point in her life is an incredible stroke of good fortune.
"I always hoped, but I never dreamed it would happen," she said. "My school," she added, "is being very understanding."
Yodeling is hardly the usual path a teen idol-wannabe takes. "But I really love the sound of it," Taylor said. "And it feels great to have a unique talent."
For her father, Scott Ware, it's all been a surprising ride.
"She was still in her car seat when it started," he said, during an interview just before her early evening performance.
The 3-year-old Taylor was sitting in her booster on a family trip, he recalled. "She heard a song on the radio and she sang it back three hours later, word for word. Wow. And she really started to express herself by age 4."
Taylor was entering talent shows by age 5, he said, and turned her focus to yodeling two years later when, at a seminar by international yoldeing star Margo Smith, Taylor was picked for a demonstration -- and the startled instructor said "Hey, girl, you got it." She'd never even heard yodeling before, but she picked up an instruction tape at the seminar and mastered it on the five-hour drive home, her father added. She won the Yahoo! Yodel Challenge in New York City at age 8, is already working on her second CD and has had her solo debut at the Grand Ole Opry. She also plays fiddle and guitar.
However, she doesn't spend her days absorbing nothing but recordings of the yodeling greats. "I mostly listen to popular country and pop stars," Taylor said. "I don't listen all the time to yodeling."
Still, she entered America's Got Talent with the hope of "spreading my love of yodeling ... and bringing it back," she said. "It's a lost art. It's almost dead."
She certainly made her point in Elizabethtown, where fair directors said the crowds at all three of her shows easily bested previous attendance records. In a tent that typically seats 300 people, more than 1,200 fans squeezed into bleachers, found seats on the grass or stood in thick crowds in the hot sun outside.
"It feels amazing to be in front of so many people," Taylor said.
"Before this show, I had maybe 100 people in an audience -- at the most. To be in front of a crowd like this and see someone's face light up is just -- amazing."
by Tom Knapp