CVPA student writes songs for NC stage musical


Mt. Airy, NC. The Civil War era musical "Shadow of the Mountain" featured original music by CVPA student Helen White. Photo by Hobart Jones.

CVPA music student Helen White

In late March, the stage musical “In the Shadow of the Mountain” was performed at the Andy Griffith Playhouse in Mt. Airy, North Carolina. Eight of the play’s songs were composed by Radford University music student Helen White.

The production was written and directed by John Adams, a semi-retired Hollywood advertising producer who has directed numerous plays for the Surry Arts Council. The story revolves around a family that becomes fragmented when two brothers choose to fight for opposing sides of the Civil War.

White worked with Adams to set the playwright’s lyrics to music. She credits her success to Radford University Department of Music professors Dr. Bruce Mahin and Dr. Tim Channell, each of whom helped her construct memorable melodies that would underscore the play’s themes.

White, who has earned several master’s degrees from other universities, takes classes in the music program. While she has been writing and performing music for years, including creating original compositions for video, theatre and special events, she was trained by ear and found herself struggling with notation, theory and new music technologies. In fall of 2015 she contacted Dr. Mahin for assistance with learning a music software program. “He was very helpful for the problem at hand and suggested I take a class to learn a more suitable program. I was thrilled to learn that I could take his class in the spring as a non-matriculating senior citizen student. Once introduced to the music department through that side door, I fell in love and realized that the resources at Radford were amazing and just what I needed,” said White.

"In the Shadow of the Mountain" actors on stage. Photo by Hobart Jones.

“In the Shadow of the Mountain” played for a three-night run starting on March 24, 2018. However, the play’s writer/director has been shopping the script and score around for further interest. Professors in the Department of Music also helped White to understand various business aspects of composing music for original creative works. According to White, Drs. Mahin and Channell, “were also very helpful in discussions related to contracts, copyrights and protecting my work should the play be published and move beyond one-shot community theater.”

White continues her studies with the Department of Music and praises how much she enjoys her time on campus. “I always feel good when I am on campus. I love the diversity of the student population - greater than I have experienced on other college campuses or in neighboring communities. And it feels very inclusive and friendly,” said White.

Apr 10, 2018
Jason S. Hutchens, Ed.D.