COLUMBIA — Savannah Purkey calmly walked up to the microphone.
Mizzou Arena was silent Thursday night between tryouts for performers to sing the national anthem at Missouri sporting events.
The three judges, sitting directly in front of the microphone, focused on the 11-year-old girl. They were looking for several singers from the crowd of about 30 people who were trying out. An additional 15 to 20 people submitted recordings.
Savannah stated her name and began to sing. The echo of her voice lingered in the rafters of the nearly empty arena.
It was hard to believe the sound that filled the building was coming from the little girl with a flower in her hair. While many other entrants tried to spice up "The Star-Spangled Banner" by adding their own twists, Purkey stuck to the traditional version. She hit and held every note without a hitch.
To the other people trying out, Savannah's performance might have come as a surprise, but to Savannah, a 2010 national 12-and-under vocals champion, it was just another chance to sing.
"I don't usually get nervous," Savannah said.
Savannah has plenty of experience singing in front of large crowds. The sixth-grader at Oak Grove Middle School performed the national anthem at a Missouri men's basketball game when she was 8 years old. She has also performed at Tiger baseball, softball and women's basketball games, as well as the Missouri gymnastics and wrestling teams' Beauty and the Beast event.
To Savannah, the tryout was nothing.
"It's my passion," she said. "I don't really have any favorite thing, just as long as I'm singing."
Savannah's parents, Shannon and Carla Purkey, realized their daughter was talented when she was young. Shannon Purkey said his daughter has always been mature for her age. She took a musical theater class at age 5 and began taking private vocal lessons when she was 6.
"She was the only one that would get in the mic and sing," Shannon Purkey said.
Savannah now sings and dances at Starz Studio of Performing Arts in Oak Grove and plays clarinet in the school band.
Markeisha Everett, assistant director of strategic communications for the Athletics Department, said she was impressed by Savannah.
Everett was in charge of the event and served as one of the judges. She said she remembered Purkey from her previous performances.