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Rio voice students take center stage

March 18, 2014

Rio voice students (from left) Ally Waddell, Aryn Gritter, Andy Knipp, Brooke Wolni and Stephanie Cartmell.

Rio voice students (from left) Ally Waddell, Aryn Gritter, Andy Knipp, Brooke Wolni and Stephanie Cartmell.

RIO GRANDE, Ohio – The vocal talents from the Department of Music at the University of Rio Grande/Rio Grande Community College will take center stage with the Off-Broadway production of “Songs for a New World.”

The abstract musical theater production opens at 8 p.m. on Friday, March 28 in the Berry Fine & Performing Arts Center located on campus. A second performance is scheduled for 8 p.m. on Saturday, March 29. Admission for either performance is $10 for adults, $5 for students and seniors.

Written by Jason Robert Brown, “Songs for a New World” is a series of songs connected around one theme: the moment of decision. With 17 total songs and numerous short transitions, the production takes the audience from a 1492 Spanish sailing ship to a ledge 57 stories above Fifth Avenue, with various stops in between.

Voice Professor Valerie Tanner selected “Songs for a New World” to showcase the Music Department’s strengths.

“Yes, we are small. We don’t have open auditions that last for days. But what’s nice about that is that we can personally cater to what each student needs to maximize their development,” Tanner said. “Not a lot of schools can really say that. We’re going to help you graduate with a resume full of experience. So you can go on to graduate school with a great resume, or if you want to go into the professional arena, you will have the experience to jump right in and be successful.”

Tanner said “Songs for a New World” was selected to showcase the talents of sophomore tenor Andy Knipp, along with fellow featured soloists senior Ally Waddell and junior Aryn Gritter. Senior Stephanie Cartmell and junior Brooke Wolni will perform in the chorus, and serve as understudies.

“I don’t really see it as pressure, honestly. I just see it more as an opportunity to show what I can do,” said Knipp, who praised the small, communal environment of Rio Grande for its ability to offer greater personal development opportunities to each student.

“The professors are just amazing, and their doors are always open,” Knipp said. “I can see a huge, huge difference in myself from where I stepped in and where I am now musically.”

“Songs for a New World” features a vocally demanding score that blends the genres of pop, gospel and jazz throughout. The performance also will feature the Rio debut of accompanist Barb White.

“She has been phenomenal,” Tanner said. “The score for this show is extremely challenging and she just jumped right in. I can’t say enough about her.”

The performance also features area high school students alongside the Rio Grande students through an Imagine Arts grant. Michael Hambrick, Jennifer Prewitt and Rachel McCambridge will represent Waverly High, with Makenzie Moorman from Piketon High and Katelyn Beaver from Ohio Valley Christian.

“There is a lot of talent throughout this region,” Tanner said. “The Rio Grande Music Department takes a lot of pride in providing a public forum to showcase that talent, as well and the opportunity to cultivate that talent into successful careers.”

Tanner hopes to see the high school participation grow continue to grow. She has opened the dress rehearsal on Thursday, March 27 to any interested music students from District 16 and 17 – 37 total schools.