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Statewide Young Vocalist Competition at MTSU to Feature Musician George Dennehy

The voices of young artists from across Tennessee will ring out in MTSU's Wright Music Building Wednesday night, and once again MTSU students will be working to ensure the artists and audience have a stellar experience.

MTSU students are coordinating the 2014 Tennessee VSA Young Soloist competition, which is open to any vocalist or instrumentalist age 14 to 25 with any form of disability. The state event feeds into an annual international competition, which will be hosted by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., on June 1.

The March 26 event at MTSU’s Hinton Hall, located inside the Wright Music Building, will feature eight talented Tennessee performers and special guest George Dennehy, an internationally recognized musician and inspirational speaker. The event begins at 7 p.m.

Tickets are still available and are $5 each at the door. A searchable campus map with parking details is available at http://tinyurl.com/MTSUParkingMap13-14.

An American family adopted Dennehy, who was born without arms, at age 1 from a Romanian orphanage. He learned to play the cello by age 8 and advanced in classical music until he was performing with regional orchestras. Dennehy, who now lives in Virginia, also taught himself guitar, electric bass and basic piano — all played with his feet.

A homemade YouTube video of Dennehy’s acoustic version of the Goo Goo Dolls’ “Iris” catapulted him into Internet fame, leading to a live performance of the song with the band at Musikfest 2012 in Bethlehem, Pa., and what has become a whirlwind musical career. (A portion of that performance is included in a PBS story about Dennehy at http://youtu.be/tkrjoJeEiqY.)

The young musicians competing at MTSU are part of VSA Tennessee, the state organization on arts and disability that was established on the MTSU campus. MTSU professor Lori Kissinger's Organizational Communication in Communities EXL Class is handling logistics for this year’s event as they did the 2013 concert.

Kissinger's students regularly help with VSA events as part of her experiential learning classes, coordinating events like last fall’s National Christmas Tree decorating party and the fall 2012 "Golden Ratio Project," an arts performance that traveled to Athens, Greece, for an international arts education exchange.

Students involved in the ORCO 3250 class participated in a program to raise funds for kids with disabilities through a Wild West event held March 7 at Lexus of Cool Springs. The students wrote a grant, secured in-kind contributions for an auction and worked on social media campaigns.

At the Wild West event, the class created the centerpieces, gathered donations, handled registration, provided entertainment, worked the silent auction, set up and cleaned up. Their efforts helped raise nearly $5,500.   

“The Young Soloist competition is my favorite program of VSA Tennessee due to the amazing talent and the inspiration that these artists provide,” said Kissinger, who also serves as VSA Tennessee’s executive director.

“I am especially excited this year due to the fact of our receiving a National Endowment for the Arts grant, which is a huge honor for our organization and state, and to have George perform alongside our Tennessee artists.”

Dennehy also will present a free master class for the Young Soloist contestants, MTSU students and the community before the competition Wednesday. That class, which will include a Q-and-A session, is set from 4 to 4:45 p.m. in Room 160 inside the College of Education Building.

The 2014 Tennessee VSA Young Soloist program is sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts, U.S. Rep. Diane and Dr. David Black, the First Tennessee Foundation, Affinion, The Memorial Foundation, Publix Supermarket Charities and the MTSU EXL Program.

For more information about VSA Tennessee, visit http://www.vsatn.org or contact Kissinger at userk7706@comcast.net or 615-210-8819. She also explains VSA Tennessee’s work at http://vimeo.com/79400834.