Samantha Latham gave her first public performance - with a microphone and everything - half a lifetime ago.
She was 5.
She was at a pig roast, and karakoke was happening, and Samantha got up in front of a group of bikers and sang "Wheel in the Sky," and everyone loved it, says her mom, Lisa.
Samantha is one of 21 acts playing Saturday at the Garde Arts Center in the New London Regional Youth Talent Show.
The event starts at 6 p.m., and goes about two hours. It's the second year of the show, which was begun as a tribute to honor Matthew Chew, a Ledyard native who was living in New London when he was killed there in 2010.
Half of the people who put the show together last year, said Susan Asselin-Connolly, who is working on the show, were friends of Chew's, and the other half were friends of the perpetrators.
While the first show was being mounted and rehearsed, Asselin-Connolly said, the organizers kept saying it would sell out the Garde. It would sell out the Garde. It would sell out the Garde.
She told them not to get her hopes up, she says; the Garde holds 1,400 people. But the day of the show, 1,600 people showed up. They had to turn away 200 folks.
This year, the selection of talent is more diverse, more varied. There's a comic, a magician, a beat boxer and a person reciting poetry. There are a bunch of singers, and one band -
There are dancing groups, including a Hispanic dance crew, and a group that Asselin-Connolly describes as "modern dance meets ballet."
Fifty-four acts auditioned, and 21 are performing. Tickets are $10, and as of Wednesday, were nearly sold out.
At 10, Samantha is one of the youngest performers, a fact that doesn't faze her in the least. She started singing around the house when she was 3, and in addition to the pig roast, has already had large performances, singing the national anthem in front of the entire Dr. Charles E. Murphy School, for instance, and in front of summer camp in a performance at Montville High School.
On Saturday, March 31, she will be singing "The Star-Spangled Banner" to open the show at the Waterford Speed Bowl.
Samantha is also auditioning to sing the national anthem at Dodd Stadium and Mohegan Sun.
She is fearless.
"My classmates think I'm really good," she says. And she is. Well, you can hear her in the video.
In that video, and in the show, she is singing "I Who Have Nothing," originally released in 1963 by Ben E. King, and made famous that same year by Shirley Bassey. Fans of "American Idol" (Samantha counts herself one of them) will recognize it as one of the numbers sung by Haley Reinhart on season 10.
Samantha sings with abandon and presence. What's important to her, she says, is to learn to "Be yourself. Express yourself. Don't hide in the shadows."