She has come a long way from the toddler who tried picking out a tune by ear on the family piano.
Tammy Turnage in Concert is the next offering by the Coast Community Concert Association. Turnage of Gulfport will perform at 2:30 p.m. March 6 at the Saenger Theater, 130 Reynoir St., Biloxi, as part of the CCCA's 67th season. She will be joined by singers David Delk and her daughter, Maria Turnage, as well as a full band.
Members of the band
"Oh, we have to get their names in there," Turnage said enthusiastically of her backup band. "Pianist is Tim Raborn, Donnie Taylor is upright bass, Todd Durbin is on guitar, Mike McCarroll is drums and R.J. Burras is pedal steel guitar.
"There'll be a lot of Broadway -- Rogers and Hammerstein and that sort. The first half will include songs from 'The Music Man,' 'Oklahoma!' 'Show Boat' and 'The King and I,' and the second half will be country hits with the band, some piano pieces by me and inspirational songs."
Big finale is secret
But Turnage isn't giving everything away.
"The big finale -- that is top secret," she said. "I could sing for three hours, but I know nobody wants to sit that long, so it's a good, tight show."
Coast Community Concerts has been a part of Turnage's life for years.
"My parents joined when we first moved here in 1975," she said, "so I grew up going to the concerts with my parents."
As for Turnage, her interest in music began at a young age.
"My mom has never missed anything I've been in," she said. "She started teaching me piano lessons when I was 3 years old. I had tried to pick out a song by ear on the piano, but she said, 'No, you are going to learn to read music.' So she started teaching me that early."
Turnage and her parents, John and Christine Roberts, moved to Gulfport from Salina, Kan., where she got her first tastes of performing in public.
"That's where I was in 'Gypsy' and 'The Sound of Music,'" she said.
She was the Balloon Girl in the musical loosely based on the memoir by striptease artist Gypsy Rose Lee.
"Oh, Mom wouldn't let me see the show, no way!" Turnage said. "My part was at the very beginning, so I would do my part, then Mom would take me to Dairy Queen and get me a dip cone, then we'd get back in the station wagon and back inside in time for the curtain call."
At age 5, she was Gretel in a local (Kansas) high school production of "The Sound of Music."
Coast audiences likely know Turnage best for her role as Patsy Cline in "Always, Patsy Cline," about the friendship between Louise Seger and the country music legend. Turnage and co-star Glenda O'Neal have presented the musical several times, and in 2000, Turnage met the real Seger, who attended one of the performances.
Turnage also has been in "The Music Man," "South Pacific," "Oklahoma!" "Show Boat" and "The King and I" and has been part of "Sounds of the Holidays." She is a former pianist with the Gulf Coast Symphony Orchestra. A Gulfport High School graduate, she earned a music degree in piano performance from the University of Southern Mississippi.
Turnage and Delk will reprise some of their performances together, such as the duet "People Will Say We're in Love."
Maria Turnage also has stage performances on her resumé, most recently in the title role in "Peter Pan."
"I'm getting to sing with my daughter!" Tammy Turnage said. "I asked Maria if she wouldn't mind."
So the two Turnages will sing duets, such as "Together Wherever We Go" from "Gypsy."
CCCA board member and president emeritus Herb Carnathan asked Turnage to consider being a part of the series, which usually features talent from outside the area. In fact, organizers say this is the first time in the concert association's history a local performer has been included. "I call it a God thing," Turnage said. "(Carnathan) came up to me at church one Sunday and asked if I would be interested. I said I thought so, but let me check with (husband) Kendall and pray about it."
Carnathan said Turnage was recommended because of her versatility on stage and her "solid reputation as a hometown favorite."
When she's not on stage, Turnage is the organist at Trinity United Methodist Church in Gulfport. She taught music in her piano and voice music studio for more than 20 years. She also is a writer, a women's conference speaker and a Sunday school teacher and leads a weekly women's Bible study in Gulfport.