Rising Star

Mary Claire sings her way to Bijou middle school talent award

As the only singer in her immediate family, Mary Claire Carter, 14, got a real early start when first being exposed to the sweet sounds of song.

“She’s always loved to sing,” said Christa Carter, Mary Claire’s mother, adding that while Mary Claire and twin sister, Sarah, were neonatal intensive care unit infants, “Mary Claire was a lot more sick than Sarah and they were separated for a while.

“So we played music for Mary Claire because we couldn’t hold her for a long time,” the mother added. “I don’t know if that had any influence.”

Mary Claire, a seventh-grader at Farragut Middle School, was champion among five middle school nominated finalists from the Knoxville metropolitan area, comprising nine counties, singing her way to Rising Star award during Fifth Annual Bijou Awards Youth Talent Competition. The ceremony was held Saturday evening, Jan. 14, in downtown Knoxville’s historic Bijou Theater.

“She sent in a video, initially, and sang “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” when trying out Dec. 2, and then she went to call-back Dec. 10 and had to sing portions of two songs,” Christa said about her daughter’s path to being nominated.

At callback, held in Clarence Brown Theater on The University of Tennessee, Knoxville campus before a host of judges, “She sang a Country and Western song and a different kind of a Christmas song,” the mother added. “It was, like, a cappella, they wanted to hear their voice.”

Upon hearing the good news that she was nominated, “She was excited, but I think she was surprised,” Christa said about Mary Claire, who sang the Connie Francis hit, “Where the Boys Are,” on stage during the ceremony.

“She loves to watch ‘The Voice,’ and there was a girl who sang that song,” Christa said about highly rated NBC prime time program.

Mary Claire’s great aunt, Marlena Kackley of Texas, is the closest relative with singing talent, Christa said.

“Her aunt suggested ‘Where the Boys Are’ would be a good song,” Christa said.

Using her talent at church, Mary Claire “started leading the youth worship in song in the sixth grade at Two Rivers [Church] where we go,” Christa said. “She’s in the middle school ministry, sixth-, seventh- and eighth-[grades].”

Christa and husband, John, have four children. Youngest son, Kyle, 16, is a sophomore at Farragut High School. Oldest son, Craig Carter, is a freshman at The University of Tennessee, Knox-ville.

Sarah “likes volleyball. She’s more athletic,” Christa said, adding Sarah and Mary Claire “are fraternal [twins] so they’ve got different interests.”

A complete Bijou Awards photo gallery can be found at: www.facebook.com/myi105