** Note that this article was published in May 2014 and menu items/personnel may have changed in the interim.
The first time Lizzie Sider sang the national anthem was in front of some 2,000 people at a rodeo in Jackson Hole, Wyo., where her parents have a summer home. After her performance, Sider, then 8, remembers turning to her father and saying, “This is great, but I can play a bigger venue.” Now 16, the Boca resident and rising country music star is well on her way thanks, in large part, to “Butterfly,” an inspirational track based on her childhood struggles with bullying. The song and accompanying video, which has snagged more than 1 million YouTube views, not only led to an appearance on Queen Latifah’s show, it prompted a recent bully-prevention tour that took Sider to 250-plus elementary and middle schools in California, Florida and Texas.
When did you know that this was the path you wanted to follow?
When I was 4, I’d put on shows for my stuffed animals. Or I’d put on a poodle skirt, play the movie “Grease,” stand on our coffee table and start singing along. … I’ve always had this dream to be a legendary artist, the kind of artist who inspires people.
Can you describe the experience that led to “Butterfly?”
I was teased during elementary school in Boca. There was a lot of exclusion and ridicule. I’ll never know why. Maybe because I was different, musical; on the playground, I’d walk around and sing to myself. … One day, some kids asked me to sing for them. I thought, “Hey, they’re actually being nice.” When I started to sing, they all laughed and ran away and called me names. … Every morning when I walked out the door, my parents would say, “Remember: No one has the power to ruin your day.” It didn’t stick right away, but I finally realized that they were right; I had the power to overcome the teasing and the bullying.
When did it hit you that this song was connecting in such a special way?
People have sent messages about how it in-spired them, and kids have gotten butterfly tattoos because of it. On the tour, I sing “Butterfly” as my last song. Most of the time, the students all sing along. The first time that happened, I [started to] tear up. It was so beautiful. Here’s a song—my song—and it’s bringing people together. It’s amazing what music can do.