At age 5, Sandra Noyola could be seen singing her heart out next to her father, Otilio Noyola, a minister at Primera Iglesia Hispana Asambleas de Dios in Graham.

“I didn’t know if I made sense, but I was singing the words,” she laughed.

Noyola was born and raised in Graham. Her father would travel to area churches ministering as an evangelist, and Noyola went with him to sing. At 13, she learned how to play the acoustic guitar. 

Now 23, she is a natural performer.

Her chosen genre is praise and worship music, mostly sung in Spanish, but she can sing in English, too. 

“I grew up singing in Spanish, and I feel like it flows better out of my mouth,” she said.

For the last two years, Noyola has competed in the Assemblies of God National Fine Arts Festival in Columbus, Ohio. Competitors’ ages range from 12 to 23, which makes this the third and final time she’ll compete. Noyola competed in the District Fine Arts festival April 25 and qualified for the National Fine Arts Festival from July 28 to Aug. 1. 

More than 65,000 participants begin preparing their entries for the District and National Fine Arts festivals. Students may enter for up to 66 categories offered in eight main divisions including art, communication, dance, drama, exhibition, instrumental, vocal and writing. Noyola will perform in front of judges in the female vocal solo competition on July 29, and although she’s used to singing in front of large congregations, she admitted to being nervous about singing in front of a handful of judges. 

“It’s a bit of a challenge singing in front of the judges,” she said. “During the competition (participants) always take their music on a CD, and I take my guitar.”

Noyola looks forward to singing “Consuming Fire” by the Christ for the Nations Institute.

“Just seeing students going and competing and showing their love for God and their talent encourages me to continue to go,” she said. 

She is encouraged by her brothers and her parents, Otilio and Lucila Noyola, to follow her dreams in both music and ministry.

“I thank God for my parents, who encouraged me to follow God’s path,” she said. “I pray and hope someone will be touched by the songs and someone can be saved by something we are performing.”

Read more in Sunday's Graham Leader.