ONE Series: soprano Tamara Harper takes the stage on September 9

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By ANGYE MORRISON

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Dr. Tamara Harper will be the next performer to grace the Series ONE stage at the Averitt Center for the Arts.

A native of Ohio, Harper is best known in the Boro as one of the directors of the Statesboro Youth Chorale. She earned her Bachelor of Music degree from The Ohio State University, followed by a Masters of Music degree from the Boston Conservatory and a Doctor of Music degree from Florida State University.

Harper has taught at the college level at Angelo State University, Georgia Perimeter College, Reinhardt University, and Georgia Southern University. She is also an accomplished choir director and currently serves as Director of Music at Sylvania First United Methodist Church.

Opera is Harper’s favorite genre, and she says she enjoys learning about characters and their lives, and telling their stories through song. She performed title roles in “Madame Butterfly”, “Cinderella”, “Les mamelles de Tirésias”, “The Magic Flute”, “The Seven Deadly Sins”, “Hansel and Gretel” and “The Human Voice”.

Harper has also had solo engagements with the Atlanta Community Symphony Orchestra, San Angelo Symphony Orchestra and Panama City Orchestra, and closer to home, the Statesboro-Georgia Southern Symphony.

In addition to acting, Harper is a director and has impressive directing credits, including Peach State Opera’s “Madame Butterfly,” “The Elixir of Love,” and “Carmen and Friends.” She also staged the opera vignettes seen in Tyler Perry’s “For Colored Girls.”

Harper smiles when you ask when she realized she could sing.

“I view singing as a journey of life, a journey I’m still on. I’m still figuring out how to sing,” she said. Her biological mother was a singer, she adds, and started teaching her to sing when she was 8 years old.

“It wasn’t until I got a solo in the middle school choir and (the principal) told my parents I had a wonderful voice that I started thinking about singing more,” a- she declared.

Harper says there are many singers she has enjoyed listening to, including Luciano Pavarotti, Anna Netrebko, Whitney Houston and Nat King Cole. But her greatest encouragement came from her husband, Dr. Steven A. Harper. The couple have a son, Dean, who is a senior at Statesboro High School.

“(My husband) always believed in me and encouraged me to sing and perform,” she said.

She also pays tribute to the many wonderful teachers who “gave me the courage to believe in my singing and my performance.”

“Michael McConnell has always been loved by my voice and my performance and has always encouraged me. Every time I sing, I get to connect with a different character and tell a different story,” she said. It’s fascinating to study these people and discover/create these detailed life stories.”

Although she loves acting, teaching has also become a big part of who Harper is. Teaching others to sing, she says, isn’t about notes and rhythms or how to shape a vowel.

“It’s about filling an empty space in your soul; become whole,” she said. “It’s about discovering humanity and telling these beautiful life stories. I really enjoy watching my students explore all of these facets of singing.

Harper’s ONE performance at the Averitt will be something of a comeback, as Harper will return to the stage after a terrible car accident in 2020. She and her son were in the accident in Macon, Georgia, and she injured herself at the hip. which greatly influenced his singing.

“I had surgery last spring which helped me a lot with the pain caused by the accident. So this is really my first recital since the accident. I really enjoyed falling in love with singing again this summer. I’m going to bring back songs that I’ve loved for years and some that I think audiences will know,” she said.

Harper says she’s at a place where she feels God is truly guiding her to give love “through it all,” and her performance will reflect that.

“In the valleys and on the mountains, give him the glory and send as much love as you can into this world,” she said.

She has invited two of her students to join her on stage for the show, and they will sing duets with her that she says come from a place of love in her life. These students are Russell Watkins, head of the vocal department at the Savannah Arts Academy, and Emma Charles Townsend, a 10-year-old performer at the Country Tonite Theater in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.

Harper admits she’s a little nervous about the performance.

“I’ve never done anything like this before. I’m quite a complex person, I would say. I hope people will see how God has brought me through many difficult times. And, I hope people will hear through my words and my music, that it’s OK. It’s OK to be broken. Learn to love yourself and others,” she said.

Harper says she’s honored to be asked to star on the ONE series. She is inspired, she says, to sing by her love for God, her joy, her sadness and her self-expression. She hopes to convey all of this on stage.

“I sometimes feel like I’ve lived my entire life with gallon-sized emotions. Singing sometimes gives me the freedom to go through that and be myself,” she said.

Harper, accompanied by Michael Braz on piano, will take the stage September 9 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased at www.averittcenterforthearts.org or by calling (912) 212-2787.

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