INA, Ill. – Cory Garmane found his voice at Rend Lake College. Saturday night, the public can find it on the grandstand at the Du Quoin State Fair.
A year ago, in his first day of psychology class at RLC, Garmane participated in an ice-breaking exercise where he was asked by instructor Jeannie Mitchell-Collins “What makes you special?”
“I sing opera,” Garmane replied.
“Oh really! Well, will you sing something for the class?” she said.
Garmane sang a small section of an Italian opera. RLC Music Director Sara Alstat will never forget that day – the day she met Cory Garmane.
“Jeannie literally drug him from her classroom over to the North Oasis ... to my office,” Alstat explained. “And we drug him into choir and into voice lessons!”
Since that day, the former bank employee listens to the voice inside his head telling him to follow his passion for singing. He was awarded one of RLC’s Music Performance Tuition Awards, quickly changed his major to music, enrolled in all the courses – music theory, aural skills, applied music, etc. – and signed up for community chorus, musicals, on and off-campus theatre productions, and anything else he could find.
“If it wouldn’t have been for Jeannie introducing me to Sara and for [Brett] Gibbs ... if it wouldn’t have been for all these people, it wouldn’t have even been music. I would have stuck with English,” Garmane said.
In December, he graduated with honors from RLC, earning both an associate in arts and associate in science degrees. After auditioning for a panel at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Garmane was awarded a scholarship to the university’s School of Music where he is now focusing on opera and classical literature as a junior. He was awarded an academic scholarship to SIUC as well.
The 26-year-old Thompsonville native will take the stage Saturday night at the Du Quoin State Fair and will be performing two opera selections – “Vainement, ma bien-aimee” by Edouard Lalo, and Roger Quilter’s “Take O’ Take Those Lips Away.” The 7:30 p.m. show is free to attend and is a showcase of talent from community colleges in the region and SIUC. It precedes the finals of “Southern Illinois’ Got Talent,” which is also free to attend.
With a theme of “Four Great Colleges, One Great University,” Garmane definitely fits the bill. He and recent RLC grad Savannah Harrell, 20, of Opdyke are Alstat’s first two students to receive music scholarships beyond RLC. Harrell was awarded a music scholarship to Missouri Baptist University.
“They are definitely two of the top singers from RLC,” Alstat said. “Their music abilities are really up there. I see Savannah becoming a music teacher and Cory wants to sing opera and I think he will do it. I think he will definitely become a singer. I’m very excited that Cory is going to SIU because that is my alma mater and I want SIU to see the talent Rend Lake, and community colleges in general, have. ... He has really dazzled them down there.”
“They are both excellent students, hard working, talented, responsible, and they will do very well,” said Gibbs, a retired music director from Mt. Vernon and current music instructor at RLC. “Savannah will be a wonderful music teacher someday. ... It’s been my privilege to work with [Garmane]. He is an amazing talent, hard working, good pianist. So, he has all the tools and talents to go on and do very well.”
Garmane hopes to one day perform professionally across the globe. “I’ve always, always loved classical music,” he said.
Alstat’s advice to them: “Practice, practice, practice and hang in there.”
Garmane is the son of Mike and Donna Garmane of Thompsonville. He is married to Amy Garmane, a third grade teacher at Zeigler Royalton Elementary School.