Woodbine Productions

The Woodbine Productions concert series is an important annual event for the College of Arts and Sciences.

Audra McDonald

Audra McDonald, who won six Tony awards, two Grammys and multiple other accolades, performed at the Woodbine Productions concert series and met with a class during her time on campus.

“This series has been bringing in three concerts a year in recent years,” said David Reynolds, the music department head.

“Each year’s season is very different,” Reynolds said. “There is always excitement surrounding the performers who will be presenting, and that is true this year. This year there were a lot of gasps, clapping, giggling and cheering,”

It’s not often that one gets to see a live performance by someone who has won six Tony awards, two Grammys and multiple other accolades. It is even more rare for that performance to be paid for in full by an anonymous donor, but that’s exactly what Brookings got when Audra McDonald, accomplished singer and actress, performed at SDSU as part of the Woodbine Productions. McDonald’s Tony awards are record-breaking. She has also appeared on Broadway in multiple productions, receiving numerous Tony nominations and appeared on television, most recently on NBC’s “The Sound of Music Live.”

Abigal Murrane, a freshman, was one of the lucky few able to attend McDonald’s performance as well as her speech.

“Being able to hear a singer with a talent such as Audra McDonald was very exciting. We were all looking forward to her concert,” said Murrane.

In addition to the performance, she spoke with the master class in the music department.

“Hearing Audra speak in the master class, giving advice to those who aspire to be a professional musician, talking about how different it is to work in television and theater—this is all valuable information for our students to hear,” Reynolds said.

McDonald’s Brookings appearance was part of a 32-city concert tour stretched over five months that began in Los Angeles, included her debut in Spain and also featured performances at Symphony Hall in Boston and Carnegie Hall in New York City.

“I learned a lot about what it takes to be in a career such as Broadway or opera,” Murrane said. “I thought the best part about her class was that she is not only an amazing singer, but also a very giving person. In Concert Choir, we pride ourselves in knowing how to give back to our community, which is exactly what Ms. McDonald does. I thought that it was great to know we have things in common.”

A native of Fresno, California, McDonald was born into a musical family. A year after receiving her classical vocal training at the Juilliard School in New York, she won her first Tony for best performance and never looked back. She went on to star in bigger productions and managed to earn an unprecedented three Tony Awards before the age of 30. Last year, McDonald became the Tony’s most-decorated performer after winning her sixth award.

McDonald made her Los Angeles Opera debut in 2007, resulting in her two Grammy Awards for Best Opera Recording and Best Classical Album. She has sung alongside virtually every major American orchestra.

An anonymous benefactor provided the money necessary to hold the Woodbine Productions concert series. “This is a very generous benefactor who wants to give back to the community, with a benefit going to our students,” said Reynolds. “It is truly an amazing opportunity for our students to hear such high-quality artistry in person.

“This year, the Woodbine Productions concert series raised about $70,000 in scholarships for students majoring in music and many other areas,” Reynolds said.
Murrane was one of those who benefitted from the series.

“I think I speak for all scholarship recipients when I say that I am very grateful for this series,” Murrane said.

Jordan Smith

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