When Payton Taylor takes the stage at Camden County College's Dennis Flyer Memorial Theater next Saturday night, it will be a doubly special moment in the young musician's fledgling career.
First, she'll be helping to raise money for the local production company that helped get her started on her budding music career—Blackwood-based Mainstage Center for the Arts.
Second, she and fellow Gloucester County country singer and local favorite Sherry Lynn are tasked with warming the crowd up for country star Collin Raye.
"I was very excited, because I haven't ever opened for someone as big as Collin Raye," the Washington Township resident responded when asked how she reacted to Mainstage's invitation to open for Raye. "So, I was really nervous, really excited, and I still am."
Sherry Lynn is looking forward to the concert as well. (Click on the link to the right to see one of Lynn's videos.)
But, as an eight-year veteran of the Nashville country music scene who's opened up for such stars as LeAnn Rimes and Crystal Gayle, the Clayton native is not quite as starstruck by Raye as is Taylor.
Still, she's excited to meet Raye.
"I do have most of his CDs," she said. "He was really big in the '90s, so I do know his music. I actually sing some of his songs, believe it or not. So, it's pretty exciting when you get to meet people you've actually followed."
Taylor and Sherry Lynn are donating their time for the Aug. 6 concert, which will benefit Mainstage's children's programs.
Raye made a name for himself on the country music scene in 1991 with the release of his debut album All I Can Be, which included his first No. 1 hit, "Love, Me." Other Raye hits include "In This Life" and "That's My Story."
Taylor hopes to follow in the footsteps of Sherry Lynn and Raye. (Click on the link above to see a video of Taylor performing a cover of Carrie Underwood's Cowboy Casanova.)
Her manager, Joe Caliva, strongly feels the 14-year-old girl is on the right track.
Caliva, a veteran of the Nashville music scene, first met Taylor while he was doing voice coaching for Mainstage two years ago.
"Her talent and her drive far exceeded any other student that I was working with," he recalled. "When the country music bug bit her, all the conditions were perfect. I had to get behind this girl and devote my career to her. It's been very exciting and well worth it."
Sherry Lynn, who met Taylor during performances last summer at The Shoppes at Cross Keys and last fall at the Blackwood Pumpkin Festival, agrees Taylor has what it takes.
"She's just getting better and better," she said.
Tickets for the Aug. 6 benefit concert cost $25. For an extra $10, 50 lucky fans will be taken backstage before the concert for a meet-and-greet with Raye.
For tickets or more information, call 856-227-3091 or visit the Mainstage website.