It took less than a year for one Augusta Christian School pupil to make her dream come true with singer Amy Grant.
"When I saw her in Augusta (in February 2004) with Mercy Me, I told her that I wanted to sing on stage with her one day," said Ava Ollerich, 11, of Hephzibah.
At a holiday concert in Columbia on Dec. 17 featuring Ms. Grant and her husband, Vince Gill, Ava received her chance.
The couple invited children sitting close to the stage to come up and sing a few Christmas carols with them before intermission. The children sang Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus. Before the children left the stage, Ms. Grant asked whether anyone wanted to sing a solo.
After a slight hesitation, Ava walked up to Ms. Grant and said she would like to sing.
"I saw Ava and I was thinking, don't ask her to sing," said Ted Ollerich, Ava's father. "There's 6,000 people here. I was nervous."
Ava chose to sing Welcome to Our World, a song Ms. Grant released on her 1999 A Christmas to Remember album.
"She's usually really quiet," her father said. "She's my little girl and I was scared for her, but she really started belting it out. I think she surprised everyone."
For the first few words, Ava was nervous, but "I was excited," she said. The Nashville Chamber Orchestra started backing her after a few lines, then Mr. Gill picked up his guitar and started accompanying the youngster.
"I stood up and started waving my handkerchief," Mr. Ollerich said. "I got excited."
Carla Ollerich, Ava's mother, was looking around and noticed the crowd was screaming and clapping.
"I couldn't breathe," she said. "I was speechless."
The fifth-grader has been taking guitar lessons for about three months because she feels she'll need to know how to play an instrument as a professional singer.
"I'm in chorus at school," said Ava, who also enjoys recess.
Her interest in a singing career began when she was 8 and attended Camp Hope. While at camp she saw a little girl on stage singing. She went home and told her parents she wanted to learn how to sing.
"We never have to tell her to practice," Mrs. Ollerich said.
Last year, Mr. Ollerich paid for Ava to record four songs for her own compact disc.
Even though Ava received a standing ovation at the holiday concert and people swarmed her for autographs, she said she really enjoys school and isn't ready for Nashville.
"I don't want to be famous yet," she said. "I still have a lot to learn at school."
Ava likes writing and keeps a journal at home.
"I like making up something with characters, usually animals," she said.
She has an older sister, Libby, 13, who is in seventh grade and a younger brother, Lonnie, 8, in second grade, both at Augusta Christian.
And Ava's dream?
"I want to sing at the Grand Ole Opry," she said.
Reach Ed Scott at (706) 823-3704 or firstname.lastname@example.org.