CLAIM TO FAME
Mallory Ledford, 15, has been a musical guest at churches throughout the region for eight years. She has also performed in Atlanta and has released four albums.
• School: Home-schooled ninth-grader.
• Siblings: Sisters, Morgan, 11, and Madeline, 11.
• Favorite movie: "Courageous."
• Favorite band: Karen Peck and New River.
• Favorite book: "Little House on the Prairie."
• Website: www.malloryledford.com.
Do you know a child age 17 or younger with a precocious talent in academics, athletics or the arts? The Times Free Press is searching for children to feature in "Talent Show," which appears in the Life section on Tuesdays. To nominate a child as a possible subject of a future feature article, e-mail staff writer Casey Phillips at email@example.com or call him at 423-757-6205.
If listening to Mallory Ledford's voice leaves more than a few eyes in the audience teary, she said that just means a job well done.
"I love to make them cry because I know I'm touching them, reaching them. That's what I love to see," the 14-year-old gospel singer said.
But she said she knows she's really hit a home run when she's able to channel her faith through her music to help bring others closer to God.
"That's my favorite part about it, to see people and know they truly are blessed and that, through God, I was able to do that," she said.
Mallory took the stage for the first time when she was 2 years old to sing "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" during a service at her church. By age 7, she was performing at churches throughout the region.
Mallory has become a sought-after musical guest for area worship services, gospel singings and other gatherings. Every year, she books at least 50 events.
"It's gradually built up to that," she said. "We just kept getting phone calls, and it turned into more of a full-time thing."
Her father, Wade Ledford, said people are drawn to her because the music speaks to the true source of her talent.
"It was a divine inspiration," he said. "We've always reminded her of that, that you don't have to be conceited about what God gives you.
"This is her passion, not anything that we are pushing her to do. God has given her her own drive to do this."
Mallory has performed at Riverbend twice and has been invited twice to sing at First Baptist Church in Atlanta in services broadcast on hundreds of TV and radio stations. Last September, she traveled to the National Quartet Convention, a massive gathering of gospel musicians in Louisville, Ky.
Even with such high-profile performances behind her, Mallory said she sees every performance as a chance to spread an important message, whether that's to a few dozen parishioners in a community church or to a crowd of 8,000.
Kelly Ledford said being onstage is transformative for Mallory, adding that, more often than not, she and her husband are among those who get weepy listening to her.
"When she steps on the stage, she's not my little girl, she's God's girl," Ledford said. "That little girl is gone."
Fans on Mallory's website have described her voice as "angelic" and "a blessing to people everywhere." To date, she has recorded five albums, all exclusively religious material.
Mallory said she considers her voice an instrument of faith and evangelism and is adamant that she never will stray from the gospel path to record secular music.
"I never intend on anything else, no other kind of music ... so I can show [God] that I'm thankful," she explained. "I just feel God speaking through me, speaking through my music.
"He knew I would use it for him. He knew I would try to win souls and try to help people with my voice that he gave me."
Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, consumer technology, animals and news of the weird. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German from Middle Tennessee State University, where he worked as the features editor for the student newspaper, Sidelines. Casey's writing has earned numerous accolades, including first and second place ...