Kyleah Heaton has always loved to sing, but she had never performed in front of a large audience.
So when her mom asked her if she wanted to sing God Bless America at a NASCAR race, the idea seemed a little scary.
“It was kind of one of those things that took me a minute to process,” the Wylie 13-year-old said. “Eventually I just hopped on the crazy train and just went for it.”
Kyleah, a 7th-grader at Wylie West Junior High, sang before a NASCAR race at Texas Motor Speedway in October. Not only was she singing in front of a large crowd, but the performance was on television and the radio.
“I never sang in front of that many people,” she said. “It was a really cool experience for me. I really have no words for it.”
Kyleah, the daughter of Guy and Jessica Heaton, has always loved singing, but she had never performed in front of a crowd. She has never taken lessons or even choir classes. Her proud mother, Jessica, would frequently post videos of Kyleah singing on Facebook. One of Jessica’s Facebook friends, Wylie dad Cameron Wiley, saw the videos.
Cameron is stationed at Dyess Air Force Base and for the last nine years, he has helped NASCAR and other organizations with military-related pregame ceremonies. When Texas Motor Speedway needed someone to sing during pre-race ceremonies, he remembered Jessica’s Facebook videos.
He contacted Jessica to see if Kyleah wanted to sing, and Jessica texted her daughter.
“I was at church,” Kyleah said. “I was with my life group. I went up to my leader, and I was like, ‘I don’t know what to do. This is crazy to me.’”
Her leader prayed with her and told her to go where she felt God was leading.
“I did it because I felt that was what God was leading me to do,” she said.
Kyleah was so nervous in the days leading up to the performance that Jessica decided to try to get one of her favorite singers, Aaron Watson, to send her an encouraging message. Once again, Jessica posted on Facebook and again, Cameron Wiley came through.
Jessica received a video message from Watson wishing Kyleah luck. Jessica showed it to Kyleah.
“My first thought was, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s Aaron Watson,’” Kyleah said. “I was so excited. I was kind of in disbelief. That helped a lot. After seeing that, I was like, ‘I have to do this. I have to do this for my mom and dad and for my grandparents and now I have to do it for Aaron Watson.’”
Still, when Kyleah waited for her performance, she was very nervous.
“It was crazy,” she said. “I was a nervous wreck. I was happy. I was crying. It was beyond terrified.”
Her mom said she did amazing.
“Once she walked down onto the racetrack and saw that stage, she became a different person,” Jessica said. “It was pretty neat to see that switch in her.”
Ironically, Kyleah was supposed to be in the musical Hairspray at her school last spring, where she would have gotten her first experience on stage. But that was postponed because of COVID. The school plans to do Hairspray this coming spring, and Kyleah plans to participate.
Now she will have that first-time stage fright out of the way.
“I definitely think it will help,” she said. “The thing I was most scared about being in Hairspray was standing up in front of all those people. But I stood up in front of a lot more than that at the race.”
Kyleah hopes to try out for the Voice one day, but for now she is in theater arts at her school and plans to get some stage experience by participating in musicals. Her NASCAR performance also gave her some experience handling the media. Her story appeared on KTAB and KTXS.
She said that was pretty neat to see.
“I was like, that’s me right there,” she said. “That’s me. It was crazy.”