Four music students recently spent an evening with local community members through the Dinner with Strangers program. Marellen Aherne of Shepherdstown hosted the dinner, which included community guests David and Leah Rampy and Charles Brown. David Rampy is a retired professional opera singer who has performed across the U.S., Canada, and Germany.
In honor of her late husband, Laurence “Larry” Bory, Aherne established the L&M Family Scholarship in Memory of Laurence D. Bory through the Shepherd University Foundation for music or music education students.
Shepherd students who participated were Shenadoah Sokel, music performance major, Harpers Ferry; John Wilkins, music performance major, Frederick, Maryland; Chase Turner, secondary education major, New Windsor, Maryland; and Matthew Gray, music performance major, Magnolia, Delaware.
Aherne said she hosted a Dinner with Strangers because she finds intergenerational activities rewarding.
“I enjoy hearing what is important to young adults, hearing about the students’ lives and aspirations, and getting insight into how I might be of help in achieving their goals,” Aherne said. “I loved how they shared both their joys and hopes and their fears and concerns.”
“I am so grateful I had the opportunity to attend the Dinner with Strangers and to be able to have discussions about classical music, traveling, and different opportunities in the music field,” Sokel said. “I am so lucky to be part of a community and university that affords its students these enriching experiences. I believe that every student who is given the opportunity to take part in the Dinner with Strangers initiative should do it, as it gives students a chance to have a personal discussion with those who have excelled in their field.”
“From the minute I was invited to the Dinner with Strangers, I was completely excited,” Wilkins said. “I think the Dinner with Strangers initiative is one of the most wonderful things our campus community provides. Being able to sit down with experienced professionals in a relaxed setting was phenomenal. It was also incredibly helpful for me personally, as I got many opinions, great advice and the ability to ask copious questions as I begin to plan my life after Shepherd. I am extremely grateful that I was chosen for this invaluable experience, and I look forward to keeping in touch with my new friends, Marellen, Leah, David, and Charlie.”
“We spoke about everything from my major, to what they’ve done their whole lives, and it was a life-changing experience,” Turner said. “I was leery to attend at first, thinking that it was just another event that I had to attend, but in the end it was extremely beneficial and humbling to be around these inspiring characters.”
Guest and retired professional opera singer David Rampy gave the students some insight into what it takes to work as a professional opera singer.
“We all found fascinating his story of navigating the world of professional performance and what it took to develop his mature voice,” Aherne said.
Gray said his goal is to pursue a career in opera, so he especially enjoyed meeting Rampy, especially since their voice types are similar.
“Being able to sit next to him at the dinner table and connect with him as a community member who has so much knowledgeable experience regarding the field was wonderful,” Gray said. “It was also wonderful to talk with someone who has an affinity for classical music, as I don’t usually have any outlets for my nerdy commentaries on opera, but now I do. I think that by going to this dinner, all of us ended the evening as friends, and I am proud to say that with this initiative, Shepherd has done such a wonderful job at bridging the gap between community members and students.”