When Missy Radermacher stepped in front of an audience for the first time at age 11, it was magic.
"It was at that moment, as soon as I sang into the mic, I knew that's what I wanted to do," Missy recalled. "I knew at that very moment that it was something magical."
Missy, an Alexandria resident, comes from a musical family. Born and raised in Forada, her parents were in a band together - the Denny and Mickey Zaviska Band. Her father plays the accordion and sings, and her mother plays bass guitar and sings. Missy's grandfather was a one-man band in Alexandria, playing 14 instruments at the same time. And her grandmother sang and played guitar.
"Back in her day, she could have gone big time," Missy said, explaining that her grandmother played on WLS Radio, a popular country radio station.
Those musical genes passed on to Missy, who still remembers when she fell in love with music when she was just 4 years old.
"I would sit right next to the speaker in the living room," she reminisced. "Dad would practice and practice and I was mesmerized by it. Hearing that music was something really special. I leaned up against [the speaker] for hours."
At age 10, Missy taught herself to play guitar. She also took organ and keyboard lessons for about eight years, but most of her music she plays by ear - she can hear a song once and play it.
When she was 13, Missy took part in a singing contest in Alexandria and won a recording contract. It would have taken her to Nashville, but her parents thought she was too young, so she turned it down.
She took part in band and choir in school and in 1984 graduated from Jefferson High School. Then she enrolled in a clerical program at Alexandria Technical College and also joined her parents' band.
In 1991, she joined three fellow musicians and formed the band Neon Highway. The group played at several venues, including clubs, parties, street dances and music fests.
During the years of performing with the band, Missy and her husband, Pat, had three baby girls - Megan, now 15, Nichole, 9 and Catherine, 7. She also worked part-time.
"I was busy working, singing, playing on weekends and having babies," she said with a laugh. "Goodness, it was busy!"
When Neon Highway disbanded in 2003, Missy took a break from her singing career - but it wasn't a break she enjoyed.
"Those years it wasn't with me I felt lost, like something was missing," she said. "I felt like a part of me was missing. I just have to have music in my life."
So three years later, Missy wiped the cobwebs off her keyboard, started practicing, and went out on her own. She sings and plays several genres of music at local venues.
"I realized that, oh my gosh! This is what I've been missing," she said of getting back into singing. "It felt like an old friend was back."
The musical genes have been passed on to Missy's daughters. She occasionally incorporates the girls into her act, performing at assisted living facilities. Her always supportive husband, Pat, prefers to help behind the scenes, helping with set-up and equipment.
"He plays the radio," Missy joked of his musical prowess.
In her heart, Missy has always wanted to be a recording star. So the next thing on Missy's musical to-do list is to produce a CD, which she hopes to accomplish within the next year.
Until then, she is going to keep doing what makes her happy - singing. And in the process, she hopes that perhaps she can bring a little of that musical magic to others.
"I'm going to keep singing and trying to spread happiness," she concluded. "It's a magical feeling, like it's something I was born to do. It's a feeling like I'm just in the right place where I was meant to be."