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Young musician performs during Island Hopper Fest

By Staff | Sep 30, 2015

Naples resident Sarah Hardwig performed during the Island Hopper Songwriters Fest Sunday afternoon at Mucky Duck. MEGHAN McCOY

Although Sarah Hardwig played the guitar in front of an audience for the first time Sunday, Sept. 20, at Mucky Duck, her nerves did not present themselves, as she sang “Girl Crush” in front of a completely silent crowd.

Kristen Kelly, a songwriter originally from Texas, invited the 12-year-old Naples musician to the stage during her Island Hopper Song-writers Fest set.

“Honestly, I was a little bit nervous,” Sarah said. “This was my first time playing a guitar in front of 30 to 40 people. I was a little bit nervous. I didn’t want to make a mistake.”

Sarah’s mother, Susan, said, they met Kelly in Nashville in 2012 at a CMA Music Fest and became good friends after Kelly shared she loved her daughter’s voice.

“Kristen is always giving Sarah advice and encouraging her and kind of being there,” Susan said of their communication, which often times take place through Facebook.

Susan said she believes her daughter developed a passion for singing at a young age because they would sit together listening to iTunes music released every Tuesday. She said it did not matter what genre of music, they listened to it all.

“The more she knows, the better off she is going to be,” Susan said. “She is such a music lover.”

Over the years, the young musician has fallen in love with a vast array of genres and artists ranging from Foreigner to Carrie Under-wood.

She has a “great appreciation for singing and songs and in general that is kind of amazing for a kid that age,” her mother said.

Sarah’s first live performance took place at a kindergarten concert, which began the passion of wanting to perform in front of others. She continues to perfect her passion because she “sings for the fans.”

Sarah sings for the Naples Philharmonic, Opera Naples and USA Freedom Kids, as well as at East Naples Middle School in the choir.

Over the years, Sarah has sang the National Anthem more than 80 times at various sporting events, such as a Miami Dolphins preseason game, spring training baseball games and at Florida Gulf Coast University.

“I love singing. My goal is to become a performing artists,” Sarah said. “Being a performing artist to me is showing them who you are and showing people what you can do and showing them the gift that God gave you.”

Sarah decided to shift gears and began taking guitar lessons via Skype with her instructor Susie Brown, a Nashville recording artist, in January.

Although Sarah is faced with a disability – being blind – it does not stop the musician from continuing to grow as an artist.

“Susie is phenomenal with Sarah,” Susan said, adding that her daughter has a very good ear.

Sarah said sometimes she picks up the song by just listening to the chords being played during their Skype lessons, while other times Brown teaches her.

“It’s not difficult being blind,” Sarah said. “Sometimes I wish I can see . . . I think I’m alright being blind. I think I am an amazing role model and inspire a lot of people.”

The young musician got to know her instructor while in Nashville a few years ago when doing a cover of “Wildflower.”

Susan said they happened to be in Nashville while individuals were being recorded singing the song. Sarah, among other artists, was chosen to appear in a video featuring “Wildflower.”

Sarah said although she has written some of her own music, she has yet to write arrangements for the lyrics on the guitar.

Follow the young artist on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook, where numerous videos are posted of Sarah singing.

Follow Meghan @IslanderMeghan on Twitter.