The Passion Behind WPU’s Manning Music Series

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Nakyia Taylor

Students, alumni and faculty during Manning Music Series

Nakyia Taylor, Staff Writer

Kenan Hall was alive with the voices and characters of William Peace University students and professional guests, who filled the theatre seats Jan. 30 for the Manning Music Concert Series.

The event included a wide selection of songs, some even from Broadway musicals. The student lineup included Marie Ann Del Valle-Coppin, Sara Jean Siwinski, Nicholas Davis, Jesse Farmer, Alexa Parker and Davyous Melvin. These students are Musical Theatre majors with recent credits in many WPU shows, such as Julius Caesar, Hair, Dracula and Meet Me in St. Louis. 

Among the guests were Kinsie Howell, Jerenae Raeford and Ashley Adamek. Howell has participated in Broadway shows, such as Young Frankenstein and A Chorus Line. Raeford is a trained opera singer, vocal coach and runner up for Miss North Carolina. Adamek had performed with Kanye West and experienced national tours and Broadway shows. 

Accompanied by pianist Matt Hodge, all these artists sought to share their art with the Peace community.

The Manning Music Series is sponsored by Sara Jo Manning and is free for students and the community. There are a total of three concerts within the series, and it has been an annual event for over 13 years. Usually, the show includes a symphony, but organizer Maya Bryant had the idea to invite students to participate, which she thought would engage the audience. 

“I hope they will have an appreciation for seeing students on stage and a more broad sense for the arts,” said Bryant, WPU’s Annual Giving and Engagement Coordinator and the head of planning for this event.

As an advocate for the arts, Bryant hopes audience members will be drawn back for future productions, either within the Manning series or other WPU theatre shows. 

“I think the Manning Music Series is so important because you get to experience this type of art form at no cost,” said Bryant.

For this particular part of the Series, there was more of an opportunity for student and guest interaction. There were three guests with varying backgrounds and experience within the professional music and theatre field.

“Our students are able to work with people who were on Broadway, vocal coaches and who had many successes,” said Bryant.

Hours before the show, there was a WPU Masterclass where there was an exchange of suggestions and advice between the teachers and students. The guests had the opportunity to work directly with students through rehearsals, movement and tips.

“It’s a great connection because I know what it feels like. I want them to know I am on their side. I want to share their craft with them and help nurture it so it can be the best it can be,” said Howell.

Howell, Raeford and Amadek instructed students on stage, gave feedback and also commended students on their performances. 

“For them, it’s about being a part of something bigger than themselves,” said Howell. 

This opportunity was a chance to share art as well as experiences and emotions. Students and past students were able to come together and create a musical experience for audience members to enjoy. 

“I’m thankful for them, for having this opportunity, for their artists as well as allowing us to share our passion,” said Howell.