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Finding Her Voice - Ashley Wilson

By Gregory Phillips - Staff Writer - The Fayetteville Observer

Note:  This story is about David Wilson's daughter, Ashley.

A Fayetteville Teenager's artistic talent is garnering national attention.

Ashley WilsonPhoto caption:  Ashley Wilson displays a piece of her artwork at her home. Wilson has a painting hanging in a show at the U.S. Capitol. Staff photo by Raul R. Rubiera

Her sights set on a career in opera with a sideline in painting, 18-year-old Ashley Wilson's goals are lofty indeed.

But, Wilson doesn't aggrandize herself. She does, however, exude a laid-back determination to achieve.

"If someone tells me I can't do something, I don't care." she said, "because I know I can."

The recent Terry Sanford graduate has the next step already lined up. After winning awards for her art and being offered almost $100,000 in scholarships from schools across the country, Wilson is heading to Wingate University near Charlotte for a dual major in vocal performance and visual arts.

The singing came first. "I pretty much sang as soon as I could talk," she said. Her mother, Sandra, said Ashley has always had a remarkable memory for songs and would recite lyrics perfectly after hearing them once on the radio.

"I would ask, 'Where did you learn that?' and she'd say, 'In daddy's car,'" Sandra Chapman-Wilson said. "She couldn't half talk, but she could sing."

Ashley said she and her brother Matthew practically lived at the Cape Fear Regional Theater growing up, singing in productions such as "Annie, Get Your Gun," and "Beauty and the Beast."

"I always knew I wanted to sing," she said. "It's time consuming, but it's worth it."

Her interest in opera was sparked by the popularity of Josh Groban's classical singing. "Other kids were bringing home rap. She'd be going to Barnes and Noble and bringing home opera," her mother said.

Wilson -- a very high soprano -- said she was attracted by the challenge. "It feels like more complete music to me; it takes more skill to do it," she said. "I used to want to do something more contemporary, but then I realized if you feel you can do classical, that really can show off your talent much better."

Artist RetreatWilson also shows off her talent on paper and canvas. An art teacher noticed her prowess in fourth grade, when she liked to sketch dresses and fashion designs. That led to landscapes and portraits. Now, the Wilson home is filled with her paintings and pencil drawings.

One painting, "The Artist's Retreat," won a national award in New York's Carnegie Hall last week and will hang on Capitol Hill in Washington for a year after also picking up top scholastic honors in her congressional district.

But Wilson stays so busy that she had to turn down Rep. Mike McIntyre's invitation to a state dinner in Washington this week. She'd already committed to mission work with the youth group at Snyder Memorial Baptist Church.

Wilson hopes to study in New York after Wingate, which she chose for the personal attention promosed by the 100 year-old school.  "The first few years, it's not about where you go, it's who you study with and how much personal attention you get," she said.

She plans to make money during college by painting portraits and murals in homes. She says she'll always  paint.

But singing remains her primary passion, something she inherited from her parents, although her voice has evolved in a different direction. "Daddy sings lilke Elvis. She's a belter," Ashley said, nodding to her mother. "Which is funny, because I can't sing like Elvis and I can't belt."

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