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Provost Lecture Series: Insight on life of a performing artist


The life of a performing artist can be exciting and fulfilling. However, many performers tend to focus only on the glamorous side of the profession and never plan for complications until it is too late when stress, performance pressures and a debilitating lifestyle wear them out.

“It is difficult to maintain such a high-powered profession while maneuvering through life’s passages, some of which can derail a career if the artist does not have sufficient skills and support to surmount difficulties,” said Dr. Sharon Mabry, professor of music at Austin Peay State University.

Mabry’s personal perspective, molded after having been a professional singer and teacher of singers for more than 35 years, is part of an upcoming book she is writing. It will be published by Scarecrow Press at the end of 2012.

She will share more of her insight as part of the next Provost Lecture Series session at APSU. She will speak at 3 p.m., Thursday, March 22 in the Morgan University Center, Room 303. The event is free and open to the public. The title of her talk, and of her book, is “Life on the Edge: A Performer’s Guide to Survival.”

Mabry will discuss factors that every performer needs to address when embarking upon a career of exhibition, such as extensive preparation, attention to lifestyle, developing a good support system, superb organization and a sincere focus on grooming the body and mind for such a stressful assault.

“It is spiced with humor, diary entries, and personal recollections (some quite serious) taken from actual performance experiences,” she said. “They show how a performer can surmount difficulties, persevere through the most difficult of times and come out on the other side having developed a satisfying and successful career filled with a love for performing, a lot of friends made while doing it, and plenty of laughter to last a lifetime.” 

Mabry first received national recognition in the 1980 National Public Radio “Art of Song” series when she was a featured recitalist. Since then her sensitive interpretation of traditional and contemporary music has placed her in demand as a recitalist, soloist with symphony orchestras and as a master teacher of vocal techniques. Mabry has been a frequent guest artist at numerous music festivals, including the International Music Analysis Conference, London, England, and the International Congress on Women in Music both in Atlanta, Ga., and Fairbanks, Alaska.

As a recitalist, she has presented major performances in venues such as Merkin Concert Hall (New York City), Corcoran Gallery of Art (Washington, D.C.), The National Gallery of Art (Washington, D.C.), and three national conventions of the National Association of Teachers of Singing as well as two recent NATS summer workshops in Rhode Island and South Carolina. She has also been the recipient of two major grants from The National Endowment for the Arts: a solo recitalist fellowship and a recording grant.

Mabry has premiered works by more than 30 composers and continues to have new works written for her, the most recent being the leading role in a new chamber opera, “George Sand and Chopin,” by composer Persis Vehar, with performances in Tennessee and New York.

From 1985 through 2009, she was a featured writer for the NATS Journal of Singing, the preeminent journal for singers and voice teachers, with her column “New Directions,” which discussed trends in contemporary music. More than 120 articles exist in that collection. Her book, “Exploring Twentieth Century Vocal Music,” was published by Oxford University Press in 2002. The paperback edition was issued in 2009. She holds the Bachelor of Music degree from Florida State University, the Master of Music and Doctor of Musical Arts degrees from George Peabody College, and a performance certificate from the prestigious Franz-Schubert-Institut in Austria.

Other sessions in the Provost Lecture Series also are planned for the academic year. All sessions are from 3-4:30 p.m. in the MUC, Room 303 (unless noted otherwise) and include the following:

March 29: Dr. Cameron Sutt, assistant professor of history

April 5: Mark DeYoung, assistant professor of art

April 12: Dr. Tim Winters, professor of English

April 19, MUC 103: Dr. Jeffrey Wood, professor of music

The Provost Lecture Series seeks to foster a spirit of intellectual and scholarly inquiry among faculty, staff and students. The program will be used as a platform for APSU faculty members who are recent recipients of provost summer grants, who have been awarded faculty development leaves and who have engaged in recent scholarly inquiry during sabbatical leaves.

APSU faculty members with recent research of acclaim also will be given a platform within this series. In addition, other faculty members of local or widespread renown will be invited to lecture within this series.

For more information about the Provost Lecture Series, call Dr. Brian Johnson, assistant vice president of academic affairs at APSU, at (931) 221-7992 or email him at - Dr. Melony Shemberger