A Country Music Association competition this year honored a 50-year-old mother of five and grandmother of two from Galena with the awards for “2016 Female Vocalist of the Year” and the “2016 Most Promising Female Entertainer of the Year.”
Tamela Knight started her journey to the competition by having dinner at the Big Walnut Grill in Sunbury where a karaoke contest was being held. The thought in the back of her mind was, she said, “We’ll just go have dinner and I’d try it out.” She was selected to go to the karaoke finals.
Knight said she grew up listening to her father sing gospel music. “I used to fall asleep in the church pew listening to my dad practice with his gospel quartet.”
She’s played piano since age 9 but didn’t started singing in public — in church — until she was 24 years old. But country is her music of choice. “There’s something about when I get up to sing country music, I just love,” Knight said.
The competition was a week-long event March 7-13 in the Country Tonight Theatre in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, with 500 contestants performing. “It was the most incredible experience in my life,” Knight said.
Once before a performance, she went out behind the theater to warm up. After she had finished and removed her earbuds, she was surprised. “I heard all these people clapping and yelling, ‘we hope you win,’” she said. A crowd had formed on the balconies of the hotel behind the theater, and were clapping and cheering when she had finished.
In one of her sets, she sang Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA.”
“She doesn’t think she is as good as she is, ” her husband, Rob Knight, said. “She can always make people happy when she sings. When she sang the song, people were coming in from out in the hall.”
During her performance, the crowd was hushed, only breaking into cheers when she had finished, she said. Backstage, the coach for Team Ohio told her, “If you can keep them focused on you and your voice, then you know you did what you’re supposed to do,” Knight said.
In the future she is signed up for The Voice 2017. “I don’t expect to win it but I would just like to know, you know,” she said. “And how cool would it be to sing (The Star-Spangled Banner) at an Ohio State game?”
For now she would like to be just an example to her children and grandchildren. “I just would like to let them know that if there is ever anything they want to do, to do it. I want them to to know anything is possible,” she said. “Don’t put it off, anything is possible.”
D. Anthony Botkin may be reached at 740-413-0902 or on Twitter @dabotkin.