Meet Claire Beasley, the 11-year-old who put Emanuel County on the map at a singing contest in Sevierville, Tennessee, the hometown of Country Music Hall of Famer Dolly Parton.
Beasley and a few members of her family (mother Libby Cannady, stepfather Jared Cannady, brother Clayton Cannady, uncle Andy Morris, and “Nana” Anita Cannady) made the six-hour trip north on May 20 with a specific purpose in mind: putting on a show at the 2022 Mountain Soul Vocal Competition. Beasley did just that the following day; she finished third in her age division with her own rendition of “A Coat of Many Colors.”
The contest as a whole is one of the main attractions included in the weeklong programming that takes place over the course of a week in historic Sevierville, the Bloomin’ BBQ Music and Food Festival.
The Mountain Soul Vocal Competition piques the interest of the musically inclined every year as it honors Parton’s incredible songwriting abilities, encouraging contestants from across the nation to sing in his or her own vocal style one of the more than 3,000 songs she has penned. To event organizers’ best knowledge, the Mountain Soul contest is the only competition in the world that specifically honors Parton in this way and encourages performers to sing her works only.
This year, however, saw singers turn out in hallmark numbers as the eastern Tennessee festival was cancelled in both 2020 and 2021.
Initial entries were first called for in early April, and Beasley, who has been singing since she was young, knew right away she wanted to give it her best shot. Her 4-H teacher is a native of Tennessee and relayed a Facebook find about the event to Beasley’s parents. When she expressed her interest, as parents so often do, Jared, Libby, her dad, Brandon Beasley, and stepmom, Kelley Beasley, made their daughter’s wish come true. They submitted her audition online by the April 15 deadline and were pleased to inform her about a week later she had made the cut, an impressive feat as the hundreds of initial entries are always whittled down to just 30 competitors (20 in the 13-and-older category and 10 in Beasley’s age range, 12-and-under) who receive invitations to perform in-person on the big stage under the brightest of lights.
She had a little more than a month to prepare for the show, and she used her time wisely, enlisting the help of her mother, is a naturally talented singer herself, and Glenn Barton of Vidalia, her guitar teacher.
By the time May 21 rolled around, Beasley was confident in her song choice. She naturally picked her favorite Parton originals, a hit from her 1968 Just Because I’m a Woman album, “A Coat of Many Colors.” At the young age of just 11, Beasley understands the significance of the ballad’s message, thus she spent several hours perfecting her performance of it in the days leading up to the show.
When the track began that Saturday afternoon, she felt right at home on stage—and it showed. She didn’t miss a beat and sang her way to one of the top spots for her age division. Specifically, Beasley outperformed four others in her age bracket and pocketed a small cash prize, plus two day passes to nearby Dollywood.
Although Beasley hoped to win it all, she is, in both a literal and a figurative sense, happy with the experience.
On that note, her mom and dad alike are both extremely proud of her latest accomplishment.
“Watching her get on stage and perform in front of so many people brings tears to my eyes and makes me beam with pride,” Libby said. “It is incredible, watching her so confidently do something that she loves to do, especially at such a young age. I hope she always remembers how proud she makes us and continues to chase her dreams.”
“I’m so very proud of her talent,” Brandon added, “and I know it’s going to take her to great places in life.”
When asked about her future plans relative to the Mountain Soul contest, Beasley was quick to say she’s already looking forward to next year.
She just finished fifth grade at Toombs Central Elementary School and will enter Toombs County Middle School as a sixth grader in the fall. Beasley also participates in the Toombs County Children’s Choir.
In addition to her parents, brother, and Nana previously mentioned in this story, Beasley has a multitude of other family members who are always among the loudest of fans when she performs, including: sisters Remi and Rylee Beasley and grandparents Lucky and Crystal Beasley, Shelva Sherrod, Ruth Wilson, Christy Foskey, Wynelle Batton, and Dewey and Melissa Batton.