The person behind the baby grand piano was barely visible but the voice could be heard throughout the room. The tiny girl played song after song. Occasionally she would put words to the music. Her father told me, “She is just supposed to play the piano tonight but sometimes you just feel the need to sing.” The voice was powerful yet inviting to those who passed by. Marlana was doing what she loves, sharing her gift with others.
Marlana has become a Kentucky fan favorite since her performance of the National Anthem at a Kentucky Hoops game. She has since performed at Rupp, Commonwealth Stadium, NFL Stadiums, NBA Arenas and MLB Fields putting smiles on faces and tears in the eyes of fans across the nation.
The world discovered Marlana when she stood mid court during game 6 of the 2015 NBA Championship game in Cleveland. Viewers watched as the tiny girl dressed in a Cavaliers jersey out shined Usher, Rascal Flatts and Carlos Santana as she sang the National Anthem a cappella before a standing room only crowd and millions of television viewers.
I asked Marlana if she ever gets nervous before a performance. “Thats my mom’s job. She gets nervous all the time.”
Teresa Vanhoose has decorated Marlana’s room with jerseys she has received as gifts for performing. Marlana’s memories however are stored on digital recorders she carries with her at all times. They are her photo albums. She can relive moments by listening to conversations and events. There is no Instagram, Snapchat or Facebook just recordings with a lifetime of memories.
When asked about the difficulty of mastering the piano and singing simultaneously Marlana had just one answer, “I am blessed.”
She jokes about meeting Shaquille O’Neal and having a conversation with Charles Barkley. Shania Twain is her favorite singer and she enjoys the old Taylor Swift much better than the new. If she dislikes lyrics to a song she simply changes them.
Marlana has dreams also. She would love to travel to Japan one day and hopes to own an acoustic keyboard that would assist her in song composition. Years from now she can see herself doing voice-over for Disney movies.
I have no doubt that these dreams will come true for Marlana. She has never let obstacles stand in her way.
Marlana will be performing tonight before the Kentucky/Auburn game and Friday evening she will perform at Big Blue Madness.
I asked her if she was excited to possibly meet Drake on Friday night. “Who is Drake?” she asked. I explained he was a big-time rapper. “I’ve never heard of him. The only Drake I know is my dog named Drake.” Marlana delivers smiles even when she is not singing
As I drove home that evening I listened to Marlana perform Hallelujah. I realized that I had been touched by an angel just as CATS fans will be this weekend.