By THERESA WINSLOW
The Capital of Annapolis
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Skyler VanGorkum sings on the hour-long drive to school.
She sings as she does homework.
She sings when she practices for the equestrian team.
And she sings at her mother’s Annapolis business.
Now, she’s starting to sing on stage, in what she hopes will be a long career.
The 14-year-old freshman at Indian Creek School made her debut his summer as a guest of local singer Suzy Estrada at Ram’s Head Roadhouse and Sly Fox Tavern.
Skyler belted out songs such as “Me and Bobby McGee,” accompanied by Estrada’s guitarist, Joe Burcham. The teen is also taking singing lessons with Estrada, the 2011 Annapolis Idol winner.
“It was just so much fun,” Skyler said. “I had such a great time with it, I wasn’t thinking about nerves.”
With Estrada’s encouragement, the teen is also learning the guitar and trying her hand at songwriting. Her repertoire of covers spans several decades and includes artists from Janis Joplin to Pink. Adele and Amy Winehouse are other favorites.
“(Skyler) has a very unique voice,” said Estrada. “It’s… a raspy, soulful voice you usually don’t hear out of a 14-year-old.”
Lee Priddy, who teaches guitar at Indian Creek and runs Priddy Music Academy in Millersville, is equally impressed.
He heard Skyler singing at school and immediately asked her to join one of the band’s at the music academy.
“She already sounds seasoned,” Priddy said. “If you close your eyes, it doesn’t sounds like she’s 14. She’s got that growl in her voice like Adele.”
Skyler doesn’t remember a time she wasn’t singing.
Although she briefly flirted with the idea of becoming a marine biologist, music was always there. It helped get her through a difficult time in middle school and continues to motivate her.
At Indian Creek, which she commutes to from her Hillsboro home, she’s active in drama and the equestrian team. She plans to play lacrosse in the spring.
Her mother, Sarah Campbell, who runs Intrigue Design & Decor, said she was so used to Skyler singing she didn’t fully realize how skilled her daughter was until a sixth grade talent show.
“She started singing, and I was in shock,” Campbell said. “It was an incredible experience.”
Melissa Huston, Campbell’s lead floral designer, is active with Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre and said she’s can’t wait until Skyler’s old enough to be in some shows.
“I tell her when she becomes famous, I get first dibs on being her agent,” Huston said.
Skyler performed Pink’s “Perfect” a few minutes later, and the emotion she put into an a cappella rendition of the song was culpable.
“I think of how I used to be and how I changed,” she said. “That’s a song that helped me more than anything.”
Skyler listens to a wide range of music, and more often than not, finds herself dissecting the way various singers tackle tunes.
“I’m just, like, `What’s that note, what’s that riff?’ ”
Meanwhile, she continues to work on her vocal skills. She feels there’s room for improvement in maintaining her pitch and controlling her volume. She tends to sing very loudly. “I’d like to go from loud and intense to soft and pretty better,” she said.
She’s not afraid to put in the work.
“Oh gosh, singing means the world to me, because it’s everything I do,” Skyler said. “It’s how I live.”
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)