Alison Atkins, '52, '61, a Greenville native who grew up on West Third Street just across the road from East Carolina University's campus, also grew up with a passion for singing and teaching that she cultivated into a remarkable music career that has spanned more than 40 years. The decision of which college to attend was an easy one for Atkins, not because she was partial to Greenville, because she was certain that "ECU was the best place for her music education in North Carolina." Atkins earned a B.S. in music education at ECU in 1952, and praises her mentor, premier voice teacher and former ECU Professor Gladys White for guiding her and her classmates to successful careers.
After graduating, Atkins taught elementary music education but quickly realized that teaching college-age students was her true calling. She returned to ECU and received her master's degree in vocal performance in 1961 where she fondly says she spent, "most of those four years living in the McGuiness Theatre." Atkins performed in several lead roles in many opera productions including "The Medium" by Gian Carlo Menotti, "The Old Maid and the Thief," "Minotti," and "The Marriage of Figaro," by Mozart. In 1963, Atkins and members of the ECU Opera Theatre participated in a month-long USO tour to the Arctic area, singing at military bases in Labrador, Iceland and Greenland. They traveled during the Christmas season and sang popular opera and pop songs of the day to entertain the troops.
Atkins then moved to Hays, Kansas, to teach voice at Fort Hays University and shaped an incredible 28-year career concertizing and teaching while becoming an associate professor of voice. She continued to teach at a private studio after a move to Lawrence, Kansas.
Atkins has also been a regular performer at the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games in Linville, N.C., singing Scottish folk and art songs and accompanying visiting artists for more than 40 years. She calls it her "crossover" career, and she has presented many other concerts here and in Scotland. As a result of her contributions to Scottish Culture in North Carolina, she was awarded the Agnes MacRae Morton Award from the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games and the Order of the Long Leaf Pine from the State of North Carolina. Atkins visited Greenville in 2007 when she was honored as one of the Women's Roundtable 100 Incredible ECU Women and returned to North Carolina permanently in 2008 when she moved to Wilmington. Atkins became a Women's Roundtable board member in 2009 and is proud of her role in the Women's Roundtables mission to encourage leadership and philanthropy. She is committed to giving future students of ECU the support and encouragement they need to become the world leaders of tomorrow.
Today, Atkins lives in Wilmington with her husband and works as a private voice teacher. She has dedicated most of her life to helping students develop their voices and guiding them to achieving their goals, whether they want to reach Broadway or teach.
"Singing is in my soul," Atkins said. "The interaction between student and teacher is one of the most rewarding experiences of life."