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Volume 25, Number 3 — March 2018

Arts for youth spotlight: Emily McCraw

Emily McCraw
Emily McCraw

By Leslie Grace | A! Magazine for the Arts | February 28, 2018

Emily McCraw was born into a musical family. Her Mom sang to her children and in church. They also owned a piano, which Emily loved to play when she was little. Her formal music training began at age 7 when she started taking piano lessons with Beth McCoy, who taught Emily until she graduated from high school.

“I reluctantly joined the East Tennessee Children’s Choir in sixth grade. I insisted to my Mom that I just liked singing by myself and that I didn’t need to be taught how to sing better. However, I was hooked after the very first day and choir became one of my favorite extracurricular activities. I’ve loved it from then on out,” Emily says.

She sang with the Highlands Youth Ensemble throughout high school, and says, “Mountain Empire Children’s Choral Academy played an incredibly influential role in making me who I am as a musician and person.”

At Emory & Henry College, she sings in the concert and chamber choirs and studies piano and voice. She is a church musician and has taught piano lessons for the past seven years. She also loves to gain experience as an accompanist “as I truly love collaborating and have found making music as a team to be an incredibly rewarding pursuit,” she says.

“I suppose music simply feels like an extension of me. Why sing? Or why play piano? Because that’s simply what I do. It’s how I express myself. It’s how I process much of life. Some of life’s hardest or most joyful moments have been processed while sitting at the piano, playing while simply thinking, praying, or singing praises to Jesus. To me, music is a wonderful instrument of beauty, connection and communication (both intrapersonal and interpersonal). I love music’s power to express the depth of human emotion and experience, and I love its ability to connect and unify individuals, even those who otherwise may not have much in common.

“I have a strange relationship with performance. Though I love making music, I only began to tolerate performing toward the end of high school and then begin to enjoy it in college. I don’t really like having attention drawn to myself or being in the spotlight, yet I chose disciplines which force me to be in the spotlight sometimes. When I stopped thinking of performance as being about me in the center of attention and started thinking about it as sharing this beautiful gift of music, which I enjoy with others, it freed me to begin to enjoy it. In my opinion, it is still hard. It takes vulnerability. However, it is no longer about how I am seen or whether or not I measure up but about communication and giving.

“In a way, piano was my first love and will always hold a special place in my heart, as solo voice was a late-blooming interest which I didn’t begin to develop until about age 17. Playing the piano simply feels like home to me. I love the feel of it. It calms me, grounds me, and provides an outlet. With singing, your body is your instrument. In a way, it is a more deeply personal expression of oneself. It also includes language, which adds the deeper and very human dimension of speech to the art form. Gradually, voice has come to hold an equal but different place in my heart. Expression and musicality is manifested differently in each, so I love how studying multiple instruments has actually helped me to think of musical energy in different ways then apply what I learn in each instrument to the other. I can definitely say that once I began to seriously study voice, it made me a better pianist,” Emily says.

Emily’s friends convinced her to sign up for a theater class at Barter Youth Academy. Once again, she was reluctant, didn’t expect to enjoy it and was proven wrong.

“I was a student with Barter Youth Academy through my senior year in high school, which played a crucial role in my further development as an artist and person. My own experience with BYA truly grew my ability to empathize, my desire to understand others, and my confidence as a performer, while opening up a love for the theater world, even if it isn’t my primary discipline.

“After graduating, I was given the opportunity to be a music director for Barter’s summer classes and have continued to do so since 2014. Eventually, I also began to teach some pre-academy and elementary classes. I simply love it. It’s a blast to work with students, helping them to develop as artists, communicators and musicians through storytelling, and seeing them develop skills that will assist them as performers or simply through everyday life,” she says.

Emily plans to continue teaching piano and expand her studio after graduation. She also hopes to continue accompanying and music directing.

She is the daughter of Dr. Jeffrey and Mrs. Miranda McCraw of Abingdon and is a senior at Emory & Henry College, Emory, Va.

Topics: Music