7th grader has an impressive voice

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 7, 2013

Maddy Brandon looks like a typical middle school student – pretty blonde hair, a sweet smile and brand new braces. She also acts like a normal 7th grader – going to school at Meadowlark Middle and studying hard to keep up with her AG classes, singing in the school chorus, playing the violin and practicing three nights a week for the Twin-City Soccer League.

But when Maddy opens her mouth to sing, she’s suddenly anything but a typical 12-year-old. The voice is rich and soulful and definitely mature beyond her years.

“I’ve always loved to sing,” she says, and her family recalls being at a Wednesday night church supper when the then two-year old got her hands on the microphone and sang Ba-Ba Black Sheep for her first audience. “I think we knew she had talent when she came home from elementary school singing the old Peter, Paul and Mary song, Five Hundred Miles,” notes Mark Brandon, her father. “She was singing the song and I picked out the chords on

my guitar and I knew I was hearing something special.” Brandy Phillips-Brandon, Maddy’s mother, said her daughter has been described as a natural contralto. People who have heard her sing say she’s got a “bluesy” sound. “She’s never taken any voice lessons or had any training,” Mark Brandon explains. “I didn’t want to do anything to change the natural quality of her voice. She’s a typical 12-year old doing homework, going to soccer practice, singing in the church and school choirs and spending time with her friends and family. She’s a young girl and we want her to enjoy that and let her voice and talent develop naturally without any pressure.”

But that doesn’t mean not taking advantage of the opportunity to show off her talent when given a chance. In fourth grade Maddy sang the Brandi Carlile song, The Story, for the school talent show at Lewisville Elementary, and those listening were taken by surprise at the size of the voice coming from this 10-year old. “It’s been that way wherever she’s had a chance to sing,” Mark Brandon said. “People are truly blown away.”

Maddy performed in the talent show again in the fifth grade, and sang the Star Spangle Banner at the 5th grade graduation. Also while in 5th grade, she competed in the Yadkin Valley Idol competition held as part of the Harvest Festival.

At that competition, she walked away with the win and a check for $300. Most recently, the 7th grader participated in the Forsyth County Humane Society’s fund-raising effort, the Best in Show Competition. “In this competition people were to submit their audition tapes,” Maddy explains.

From all those tapes, 10 individuals or groups were selected. The tape Maddy’s parents submitted was from one of the evenings when she had been invited to perform at one of the Forsyth Woman Magazine’s “Girls Night Out” events. The song was Lady Gaga’s The Edge of Glory. “The way it was set up, there were 10 one minute YouTube videos to watch, after which you called in to vote for your favorite,” Mark says. “Each vote was $1, and when it was over,

Maddy won first place in the popular vote and earned a $1,000 first place award.” She was the youngest competitor, and half of her prize money went into a college scholarship fund and the rest is hers to spend.

She’s also auditioned for American’s Got Talent singing Adele’s Rolling in the Deep, and while she wasn’t selected, it was great experience and she will be trying again.

As to the future? “A friend suggested we take Maddy to Nashville where some of the places have an open mic night,” her father said. “I don’t know if we will, but right now what we’re working on is our own album.” Mark has been playing guitar since he was 15 and he’s also a song writer. “I come up with a tune and then the lyrics and Maddy will help me with the music. She has a great sense of rhythm and timing and most of the time she hears a song once, and then she’s got it.”

They have a few numbers recorded, but it’s an ongoing effort. “It’s nice that this is something we can do together,” Mark said. “We are always aware of the fact that she’s still a kid and we don’t want her to miss out on any part of that. But when she does want to sing, I like that fact that I’m always there to keep an eye on her.”

Maddy will be performing at the next Forsyth Woman’s “Girls Night Out” at the Tap House in the River Ridge shopping center in Clemmons later this month. “I love to sing and I’m having a good time,” Maddy says, adding that for the most part, she no longer gets nervous in front of an audience. So is a career in music in her future? “I’d like someday to be up on stage performing in my own concert,” she said, after giving the question some thought. “But I also thought about being a vet.”