By Julie Turner
She seems like a normal third grader who loves Legos, talking on the phone, texting her friends and even math in school. But Sami Bray of Cordova is most at home on the stage.
“I never get nervous,” Bray said. “And the bigger the crowd the better!”
It’s a good thing she feels that way because Bray is one of only 12 kids selected in a nationwide search to sing before a match at the U.S. Open on Labor Day weekend.
This year, there were more than 200 submissions for the U.S. Open Anthem Auditions. Bray was one of 60 children selected for the in-person callback held in New York City.
After originally sending in an audition tape, the family made the 32-hour round trip drive from Memphis to New York City for the callback. Her mother, Dana Bray, was surprised to hear that her 8-year-old daughter was chosen.
“We were just shocked and beside ourselves and excited,” Dana said. “Her dad and I are huge, huge tennis fans. So, we are really excited that we get to go.”
Sami will be singing “America the Beautiful” before a match on Sept. 4. She knew the song already from a couple years ago but has been practicing for the last few months just to be on the safe side.
The Brays first found out a then 5-year-old Sami could sing when she took the stage during her older sister’s Christmas program. She got up and sang “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.”
“She blew us all out of the water,” Dana said. “People were asking me ‘Did you know she could sing?’ I did not have a clue.”
The Grahamwood Elementary School student is no stranger to the local stage and has been doing theater with her older sister ever since. Sami has been in many local productions, including “Charlotte’s Web” with the Germantown Community Theatre, “Annie Jr.” with Stage Door Productions, and “The Little Mermaid” with New Day Children’s Theatre, where she played Flounder.
Sami is also playing Cindy Lou Who for the second year in a row in “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical” in Nashville at the Grand Ole Opry House. It’s a role she really enjoys, and she has the size and the voice for it.
“Sami has a really big voice for such a tiny person,” Dana said.
Her mother enjoys the opportunity to watch her youngest daughter perform.
“What I enjoy about Sami performing is how much she loves it,” said Dana. “She just absolutely comes alive when she’s in a theater environment.”
“She interacts with adults just like she does with kids,” she added. “It teaches her great communication and teamwork.”
Sami is the youngest of three girls. Oldest sister, Gabby, is 15, and Maddy is 12.
“I like to sing a lot, followed by my big sister (Maddy),” Sami said. “I also like to dance, and I like to act.”
Sami, who said tap dancing is her favorite kind of dance, is looking to put all of these skills to work when she grows up.
“I want to do musical theater when I grow up as an actor and singer,” Sami said. “Also, I want to do movies.”
As far as her upcoming performance at the U.S. Open, Sami said she is “jumping excited.”
Her parents, two sisters, grandmother and grandmother’s friend are all going to watch her sing at the U.S. Open.
International music stars Taylor Swift and Bea Miller both kicked off their careers by performing at Arthur Ashe Stadium during the U.S. Open. Approximately 700,000 people will attend the event over the course of the two weeks.
“A lot of people will be coming,” Sami said. “That’s going to be so much fun!”