From the moment Makayla Brownlee sang the Miranda Lambert hit, “The House That Built Me” on stage at the Kansas Wheat Festival when she was 7-years-old, she knew she wanted to be a performer.

Since then, Makayla has sang and played guitar at several Wheat Festivals as well as at other events in the Sumner County area. She’s not short of gigs, but now, around 10 years after singing before an audience for the first time, Makayla faces the biggest challenge of her budding singing career.

Auditioning for “American Idol.” 

She made it through the first round of auditions for “American Idol” in Wichita and has been selected to go for a second round in Chicago. If she advances beyond there, she will go before the celebrity judges in Hollywood.

“I’m really excited,” Makayla said. “I’m really nervous but I’m ready for this journey.”

Initially, Makayla’s was one of hundreds of videos sent to channel 10 for its KAKE Idol contest. Makayla sang, “She Used to Be Mine” by Sara Bareilles, and made it to KAKE’s top 10, meaning she and the others who placed advanced to the front of the line at Wichita’s Century II.


For that audition, she played guitar and sang “Creep” by Radiohead and “Travelin’ Soldier” by the Dixie Chicks.

Since she’s a minor, Makayla’s mother, Michelle Brownlee, had to accompany her to the audition. She stood at the back of the room while her daughter sang before a producer - one of seven in the room, listening to auditions.

“I was close enough to where I could still hear her,” Michelle said. “It made me cry. I knew she was going through by her reaction.”

Makayla texted family members with the news. She couldn’t make calls because people were still auditioning.

After her audition, Makayla was in a room with others who had passed the audition. A woman asked her questions about herself and said she would forward Makayla’s video to the producers and she would receive an email around the next week telling her if she would advance to the next round in Chicago.

The email arrived the next day. Makayla auditions in Chicago on Sept. 20. She leaves with her family on Sept. 18. 

“I want her, if she doesn’t make it all the way, to be thankful for how far she has come,” Michelle said.

“It’s exciting just to get this far,” Makayla said.