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Sheryl Crow taps local fifth-grade cancer fighter to sing at Clearwater Jazz Holiday

With a peach-colored bow in her hair and shiny beads around her neck, Marissa Peddie, 10, took center stage last Saturday at the Clearwater Jazz Holiday and harmonized with Sheryl Crow. Although she is in remission now, Marissa has been battling acute lymphoblastic leukemia for two years, and after Crow, a well-known cancer survivor, heard her sing backstage, she asked the Lake St. George fifth-grader to help her cover Cat Stevens' The First Cut Is the Deepest. Turn to page 4 for a Q&A with Marissa.

The meeting with Sheryl Crow came about with help from Allon Sams, music committee chairperson for the Clearwater Jazz Holiday Foundation. Sams has served as a music mentor for Marissa Peddie since meeting her in the spring during the Youth Night Jam Series at the Living Room in Dunedin.

"We had hoped a meet-and-greet could happen for Marissa, but we had no idea she'd be invited on stage," Sams said. "She really was not nervous at all. She was up there, joking around, and then somewhere in the song, she decided to take it out and began to ad lib. The crowd loved it."

We caught up with Marissa by phone Monday and talked about her aspirations, her visit with the music icon and how it felt to sing inside Coachman Park with thousands of music fans cheering her on. "The only thing I'd change is I'd wear a different dress," Marissa said. "I didn't know I'd be singing on stage."

Marissa lives in Tarpon Springs with her parents, Jennifer and Brian.

To check out more of her music, visit

Were you nervous?

A little bit. My heart started pounding. My hands were sweaty, but the audience started applauding, and it made me feel good. It made me feel more confident. I felt complimented.

What is your advice to other kids who are going through leukemia?

I would say never give up and keep fighting, and one day, you will kick cancer's butt.

As you sang, I saw that you would look up at Sheryl every few moments. Would that make you feel better?

A little bit. I knew she believed in me.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

A singer, a dance teacher, a Publix worker, a dentist, and I want to find a cure for cancer.

When you were finished, leaving the stage, Sheryl said, "That, ladies and gentlemen, is what the human spirit is all about." What do her words mean to you?

They mean a lot. I think they had to do with how your human spirit helps you pursue your talent to touch people's hearts.

Contact Piper Castillo at Follow @Florida_PBJC.

Sheryl Crow taps local fifth-grade cancer fighter to sing at Clearwater Jazz Holiday 10/20/15 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 21, 2015 5:34pm]
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