The Baker Orange

Junior chases performing dream at Oklahoma’s Rodeo Opry

Story by Taylor Shuck, Editor

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As a child, Jessica Prather was shy and quiet. Her parents knew she was a talented singer, but Prather refused to perform in front of an audience. Her parents eventually put her in dance, hoping it would help her come out of her shell.

After years of dedication to the art of dance performance, the junior is finally letting her singing talents show. She recently performed at the Rodeo Opry in Oklahoma City.

“It was so much fun,” Prather said of her experience. “It was absolutely terrifying but awesome at the same time because it was the first kind of professional performance that I was involved in, and I loved every part of it. Everyone who was involved was very supportive and really kind and giving more support throughout.”

The Rodeo Opry has seen more than 20,000 artists perform on its stages, including country star Reba McEntire. It’s a nonprofit organization dedicated to reaching wider audiences and promoting Oklahoma music.

Prather isn’t a stranger to the Sooner state. Before this semester, she attended Oklahoma City University. But Prather transferred to be on the Baker dance team, and after what her mother Darla calls “a little bit of soul searching.”

“Oklahoma wasn’t a good fit for me anymore,” Prather said. “I like the (Baker) atmosphere better. Everyone here is so much nicer. The community feeling wasn’t there like it was here at Baker. It was a lot more competitive over there, it’s hard to explain, but I feel like people just weren’t as friendly.”

Her entrance into the world of vocal performance was somewhat of a fluke. Prather said to be in musicals in New York City, dance performers have to be able to sing. So in line with that, Prather went to random singing auditions as a practice tool. But when she actually landed a gig, she realized she might have a shot at singing.

The Rodeo Opry was the first time Prather ever performed publicly, and she said the audience made her believe that she was good enough to keep doing it. And that is exactly what she plans on doing.

“I think this experience is kind of going to help me go in the right direction of what I want to do with singing,” Prather said. “Ideally, I want to be professional and make a living. It would be amazing to be as famous as someone like Carrie Underwood, but I just want to be able to sing and perform and do something with the rest of my life.”

Friends and family are also very supportive of Prather’s dreams.

“She’s definitely got the heart for it and that’s the most important part,” senior Morgan Brown said. “She believes in herself, and she know what she wants and she’s going to go for it. Enough of her heart is in it that she’s going to persevere and she’s going to try for as much as it takes.”

Her family is hopeful that Prather’s talents will take her far, but they also understand how tough it is to be successful in the music industry.

“I would like to see her get a chance to do something. I think making it in that kind of industry is not just about talent,” Darla Prather said. “It’s about what you present and being in the right place and the right time. I think it would be great, but I also understand how hard it is. I think she’s done a good job with ‘what if it doesn’t work out,’ then she has her future figured out.”

In the future, Prather plans to reach out to other venues like the Rodeo Opry. She also hopes to submit a piece to “The Voice,” a popular television show based on promoting unknown singing talents.

One thing she won’t do, though, is give up.

“The best piece of advice that I’ve received is this … ‘If you really love it, keep going for it. Don’t let people telling you no stop you from doing what you want to do, especially in a business like this,’” Prather said. “And that’s exactly what I’m going to keep doing.”

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