By Gisselle Hernandez, Features Editor
Murray State student Arista Manning has accepted the invitation to sing the national anthem at the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament in Nashville, Tennessee, Saturday evening for what is her first televised performance since pursuing her passion professionally.
Manning, senior from Kirksey, Kentucky, is no stranger to performing the anthem at events, and said despite being a bit nervous singing one of the most difficult songs, she is more excited than anything else.
“This is what I want to do for the rest of my life,” she said. “Just singing and performing and I love being in front of people, so naturally it’s a very cool experience for me.”
Manning’s performance will open the championship game of the tournament.
Manning said the Murray State Alumni Center were the ones who approached her about the opportunity. The new director of the Alumni Center, Carrie McGhinnis, got her in touch with Brian Poole, who was in charge of finding a performer at OVC Tournament.
“He welcomed the opportunity to me and I accepted and I’m very excited to represent Murray State this weekend,” she said.
Manning said she feels honored to sing a song with so much meaning behind it and one that represents her nation as a whole.
“In that moment, it is pressuring to be able to sing it with as much dignity and grace as possible,” she said. “But there’s nothing like singing it as well.”
One of Manning’s role models is the country artist Carrie Underwood. Manning said she looks up to the artist not only for her talent, but for her character as well. She said being a public figure isn’t always easy, but Underwood stays true to herself.
“That’s really what I want do as an artist, just keep my goals and the things that are important to me at the forefront,” she said.
While other student-artists might opt to have an image specifically for their musician side and another for their student side, Manning said it doesn’t have to necessarily be that way.
“As an artist, yes it’s important to be in the public eye, to be involved, to always continue to do things and to promote yourself, but you can do that while also staying true to yourself,” she said. “Yes, I’m also a student and an artist, too, but that doesn’t change who I am inside.”
A public relations and journalism senior, Manning said the skills she has acquired at Murray State play an important role in her professional life. As a freshman, she said she knew exactly what she wanted to do. Manning said she loves working around people and also likes to write, so PR and journalism seemed like a perfect fit.
“I definitely have been integrating PR and my journalism skills with my music, which is really cool,” she said. “I can go to school and actually put all that knowledge toward what I’m doing with my life right now.”
Being a PR student has helped her a lot with self promotion and just being in the digital age as an artist, she said. Since pursuing music professionally at 18 years old, Manning has had to juggle both being a student and an artist.
“It’s always been a priority of mine to finish school and to do my best and so I’ve really had to just balance both since we started this process,” she said. “Over the years, I’ve just learned how to use my time management skills. Being a [journalism and mass communication] student, the faculty and the program itself has helped me just pursue my dream, to be able to handle a lot at once.”
Her album, “Ride This Night,” was released last September and she has been promoting it ever since. Over Winter Break, Manning was able to go on a two-week radio tour to promote her album.
“We started with local stations kind of around the area,” she said. “I actually sang at Murray’s country station Froggy 103. That was really special to me, just to get to sing at my town’s radio station.”
She also went to Nashville last week for a country radio seminar where she met various esteemed artists and did interviews along with them. Manning also plans to host a benefit concert in Murray sometime in the future where she hopes to involve other local artists. She describes the event as a great way to end her stay at Murray State. Although the concert isn’t set in stone, she said it is definitely something they have been brainstorming. Her choice to host a benefit concert instead of a normal performance is because she said charity means a lot to her.
“Giving back means a lot to me and those are just two things that are very near and dear to my heart and that I feel is important,” she said. “I feel like if you put some others first, things will follow you.”
Apart from the concert, Manning has many musical plans after she graduates in May. One of them being performing at CMA Fest 2017 this summer and continuing to perform in Nashville on Broadway.
“It’s been definitely a whirlwind of a year, but I wouldn’t take it back for anything,” Manning said.