Jessica Snyder started singing at age 12 in her grandmother's dining room, but she's now performing for live audiences around the area.
The 16-year-old has placed in the top five in several singing competitions, including a karaoke contest in Mount Alto, Pa., and Washington County Library's Teen Idol contest. The contests are sometimes for teens, but she's also competed with people in their 20s, 30s and 40s, said her father, Mo Snyder.
Jessica also performed once a month from 2008 to 2010 during open mics at a coffee shop once open in Whitier and recently recorded a CD of gospel music, "Simply Singin' Praise."
"It was fun and nice to have a different audience each time (at the open mics)," she said.
Jessica's next performance will be on Antietam Recreation's stage for a Valentine's show running Feb. 4 to 19. Originally, she auditioned for a part in the center's Christmas show. She played the female lead for the 21-performance run and was invited back for the February shows.
As a Frederick High School student, she's taken part in several shows including "Twelve Angry Men," "The Goodbye Girl," "Running in the Red" and "It's a Wonderful Life." Jessica has also performed with The Fredericktowne Players and Fun Company with Maryland Ensemble Theatre.
She credits much of her success to her mentor, Nancy Wiles.
"I'd be nowhere without her," Jessica said.
Wiles is the music director for Thurmont Church of the Brethren, has performed all over the world, and has recorded in Nashville. Over a 10-year period, Wiles occasionally traveled with a band to perform for military troops.
When Jessica first began singing, she said she didn't feel comfortable enough to move around.
"I started out fairly stiff. (My family) used to say, 'Just move something,'" she said smiling. "Now, I've started to open up and it just feels right (to move with the music)."
Audiences pay close attention when they hear her voice.
"She emotes the message of the song, it draws people in immediately," Wiles said.
Though Jessica's schedule tends to be full, her love for the stage keeps her going.
"We're not pushing her, it's always been her driving it," said Jessica's mother, Judy Snyder.
Another aspect of music Jessica enjoys is determining how a piece should be performed.
"Jessica directs the song and I accompany her," Wiles said in a phone interview. "She knows what she wants and I'm honored to be there and support her."
AT A GLANCE
WHAT: Antietam Recreations Valentines Special
WHEN: Feb. 4 to 19
WHERE: Antietam Recreation, 9745 Garis Shop Road, Hagerstown
TICKETS: $29 adults, $27 seniors, $26 for groups of 36 or more people; prices do not include tax.
CONTACT: 301-797-7999 or AntietamRecreation.com
DETAILS: For details on Jessica Snyders CD, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.