Thursday, December 10, 2015

Typical 10-year-old, extraordinary voice

Recently, I was privileged to meet 10-year-old Mikaya Taylor and her mom, Traci. What an incredible story of her improbable start in music!  Mikaya is already getting noticed in the business but she's a normal girl with a powerful voice.  This appeared in the Dec. 2 edition of The Anderson News.

In many ways, it would seem that Mikaya Taylor is your typical 10-year-old girl.

“Do you want to ask me some questions about my dog,” the fifth-grader from Robert B. Turner Elementary School asks.

She proceeds to go into detail about Zoe, her 7-month-old Doberman Pinscher, who hops on the couch to get some hugs and return the love. “She has a big nose,” Mikaya says, “but she’s a good dog.”

Mikaya has a passion for Chinese food and loves to talk about sports, too. “My favorite colors are the ones for the Florida Gators,” she says. But her love is for the Kentucky Wildcats, which should be no surprise since her grandfather, Mickey Gibson, played in 17 games for Adolph Rupp’s top-ranked basketball Wildcats in 1963-64.

Mikaya Taylor and her dog, Zoe.
Mikaya loves to talk. When asked if she ever gets in trouble at school for talking too much, she giggles and covers her face in embarrassment. “They say she is a social butterfly,” laughs Mikaya’s mother, Traci Taylor.

She just looks like a typical fifth-grader.

Until she starts singing, that is.
There is nothing ordinary when Mikaya belts out a few lines of a country classic.

I am a poor wayfaring stranger
While traveling through this world of woe ...

The chilling voice almost makes one forget this is a 10-year-old.

I’m going there to my mother
She said she’d meet me when I come ...

Make that a 10-year-old who got her first taste of performing publicly in May but in just over six months, has done more than turn heads. She’s performed on a world-wide radio show, been booked for one of the world’s biggest bluegrass festivals in 2016 and has been invited to sing in Nashville in February.

But it’s been that kind of a year for a child who wants a four-wheeler for Christmas and whose start came when her mom would stop what she was doing around the house when Mikaya started singing.

“She was always singing in her bedroom,” Traci says. “I am her mother, but I thought she had a beautiful singing voice.”

The music would be anything from pop – Mikaya claims to know the words to all of Taylor Swift’s songs – to country or bluegrass.

Mikaya Taylor sings "Wayfaring Stranger" with Kevin Chilton.
And the break came in May when long-time friend Kevin Chilton and his band, Custom Made Bluegrass, were playing at the Woodland Arts Festival in Lexington. Chilton asked Mikaya to the stage where she let go with a rousing version of “When You Say Nothing At All,” a song recorded by both Allison Krauss and the late Keith Whitley.


“I would have to say, ‘Yeah,’” Mikaya says.

It apparently did not show as representatives of the Festival of the Bluegrass were in attendance and booked Mikaya for one of the 2016 gathering at the Kentucky Horse Park.

Since then, Taylor has been wowing country and bluegrass fans around central Kentucky. Her songs include a cover of Dolly Parton’s mega-hit, “Jolene,” in addition to classics from Emmy Lou Harris and Loretta Lynn.

That’s something for a kid who counts the pop group “One Direction” as her favorite group.
It begs the question, “Why bluegrass?”

“That is what Michael Johnathon asked me,” Mikaya giggles.

Johnathon, a Kentucky-based folk singer, is the creator and host of the popular “WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour” which is broadcast on public radio and television. It originates at the Lyric Theatre in Lexington and is beamed worldwide on the Armed Forces Radio Network. His motto is, “You don’t have to be famous to be on WoodSongs, you just have to be very good.”
About five months after Chilton called Mikaya to the stage at Woodland, she was singing on WoodSongs on Oct. 19.

Mikaya and Michael Johnathon at Woodsongs
“Ruth McLain Smith of the McLain Family Band recommended her to me,” Johnathon said in an email. “WoodSongs is used in schools nationwide, complete with lesson plans, and for the past couple years I’ve been featuring children performers. They don’t win anything, they are not judged, but they get a chance to be on a national broadcast with seasons, touring performers. In that light, we look for WoodSongs Kids who sound like themselves, who smile a lot, who love music and their place in it. Mikaya fit all those things to me."

And, true to Johnathon’s signature phrase, Mikaya was very good.

“She was flat out adorable and a mighty fine singer. The audience loved her,” Johnathon recalls.
And the WoodSongs appearance provided the simple answer to why Mikaya is singing bluegrass these days. “It just seems that is where the doors are opening for her,” her mother says.

Chilton, an Anderson County resident known throughout central Kentucky for picking his banjo, was impressed, not just with Mikaya’s talent, but her stage presence. “She’s 10 years old but she is very professional,” he says. “When she gets up there, she takes over and does her job.”

That was apparent the weekend before Thanksgiving when Chilton’s group was opening for the renowned bluegrass group, The Grascals, in Clay City. He called Mikaya to the stage, where she wowed an audience that included several of the Grascals.

Mikaya Taylor singing with The Grascals in Nov. 2015.
Mikaya only knew the group from what her mom had told her, but quickly became acquainted as The Grascals also called the young lady to the stage. Despite never practicing together and being unfamiliar with each other, the stars and the 10-year-old delivered a crisp rendition of “I’ll Fly Away.”

Here is a link to the performance.

It has all happened very quickly for a young girl who says, “I was surprised people wanted me to sing for them. I was just singing and mom listened,” Mikaya says.

Chilton initially got Mikaya on-stage. Smith gave her a recommendation. Johnathon and the Grascals have given her a break, but if things work out, some more of the big names in bluegrass and country music might hear Mikaya. She’s been named one of Tomorrow’s Bluegrass Stars and is one of 126 kids, age 18-and-under, from across the nation to participate in the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music of America’s gathering in Nashville from Feb. 4-7.

Whether any of her her favorite singers will be around isn’t known but Mikaya says bluegrass legend Rhonda Vincent is her favorite artist of the genre. If she met Vincent, Krauss or Harris?

“I would freak out!” Mikaya says.

It is just what a visitor needs to be reminded again that despite her success, Mikaya Taylor is still in elementary school.

Traci Taylor says she has no worries about her daughter being overwhelmed by her whirlwind rise. Traci says her daughter is very active in church and is well grounded. Plus, Traci is trying to make sure things stay in perspective.

“I have had a lot of festivals contact me, but I am not going to let her go all summer,” Traci says. She is working on a demo CD and is taking bookings for 2016.

For now at least, the big time will have to remain in Mikaya’s dreams.

She wants a bus for travel, but also wants to give to others.

“When I get my bus,” Mikaya says, “I want to go to Florida at Christmas and give a lot of kids presents. Kids that don’t have much.”

Chances are they will talk about Mikaya’s dog.

And undoubtedly, they will sing.

Hearing Mikaya Taylor
Mikaya Taylor is off to a fast start in the music business and will be featured on the television version of WoodSongs Old-Time Radio sometime during the coming season. The show is available on KET.
The radio version of Mikaya singing at WoodSongs will broadcast on WEKU – FM, 88.9, or WUKY-FM 91.3 on Dec. 19.
Her mother, Traci Taylor, has taken to social media to get the word out. Traci runs a Twitter account, kysingingangel and has a Facebook fan page, Mikaya Taylor.
Traci has also posted videos on YouTube on the channel “Mikaya Taylor Musician Band.” She also has a website,
For more information, email

Looking for Nashville, looking for a band

Traci Taylor says her daughter is looking for a sponsor to help defray the costs of what promises to be an expensive, but worth it, trip to Nashville for Tomorrow’s Bluegrasss Stars.
Taylor also says she is looking for musicians to form a band to perform with her daughter. Young musicians looking for some experience are encouraged to contact Traci at

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