The Junior Opry is back
Talent showcase returns to Stage4 Jan. 3
Story by Chris Graham
Bob Campbell wanted to bring his Virginia Junior Opry back to the Staunton area. Jeff McDaniel wanted it back, too, because he knew a Staunton-based Opry show could pull from a wide base of local talent.
“And here we are,” said Campbell, who with McDaniel, a ShenanArts veteran who connected with Campbell at a Virginia Junior Opry show in Clifton Forge earlier this year, is putting on a Junior Opry performance on Sunday, Jan. 3, at Stage4 Theatre in Verona.
Campbell has moved the Opry back and forth between the Staunton area and the Clifton Forge area for the past 10 years. Campbell, a member of the popular local act The Coachmen, has wanted to find a home in the Staunton-Augusta area for the show modeled on the Grand Old Opry since getting the series going.
“The talent base here is just unbelievable,” said Campbell, whose issues with locating a regular home for Opry shows has had to do with the availability of affordable venues.
Enter McDaniel and ShenanArts, which is using the Jan. 3 Junior Opry as a fundraiser for its relocation fund. “We have the space, and we have the talent,” said McDaniel, who first made contact with Campbell while helping a local tween talent, Emily Henline, find gigs and landing her a slot on a Junior Opry show in Clifton Forge.
That led to McDaniel taking other ShenanArts talents to Opry shows, and the rest is history.
“The kids who were coming down didn’t mind making the trip, but I thought we could get a lot more if we could bring it up here,” McDaniel said.
Henline will be one of the nearly three dozen young performers on the bill for the show this weekend. “It’s an honor. I’m very excited. I can’t wait to be there singing my songs,” said Henline, 12, who got her start in performing arts two years ago in a ShenanArts production of Children’s Letters to God.
Also on the show will be ShenanArts and Junior Opry veteran Andrea Saunders. The 20-year-old who grew up in front of our eyes said it will be “very humbling” to be back on the stage with her friends from the local performing-arts community.
“I was there when I was 12 years old. Seeing the kids now who are 12, 13, they’re amazing. And it’s neat to see everybody growing up, the kids, the people I’ve worked with over the years at ShenanArts,” said Saunders, who is now in college and the National Guard.
ShenanArts and the Junior Opry “were my family. If anything was going badly at home or school, it didn’t matter. I could do what I wanted to do on stage,” Saunders said. “Looking back now, it kept me out of so much trouble. That’s why it’s important to keep it going. It’s an alcohol-free, drug-free, safe environment.”
That to Campbell is what the effort that he and people like McDaniel put in is all about.
“That’s a big part of it – to give kids something to do, to get them off the streets. People here complain about the kids having nothing positive to do. This is an attempt to give them something,” Campbell said.
The Virginia Junior Opry
WHEN: Sunday, Jan. 3, 3 p.m.
WHERE: Stage4 Theatre, Verona
INFO: Virginia Junior Opry on Facebook