Singing gives Skinner chance to give back

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“I act and I sing for something bigger than myself, and I think that’s what it’s all about. Besides a higher power, ‘bigger than myself’ is these kids.”

For Caleb Skinner, performing on stage only comes second to working with kids and helping them to develop their voice.

The Sims native has worked with Playhouse and ACT! for Youth as music director since last summer. He also works as a vocal instructor with The Singer’s Studio as well as Wilson and Edgecombe community colleges. On the evening of Valentines’s Day, he will be the featured vocalist for Love The Symphony at Barton College, performing with the Barton College/ Wilson Symphony Orchestra. The tenor will be performing some music theater favorites.

He is also currently working as the music director for ACT! for Youth’s upcoming production of “Beauty and the Beast,” which also was his first musical with the group.

“We’ve really come full circle with this,” Skinner said. “To work with my students in the classroom and my actors, it’s interesting and exciting.”

Music has always been a part of Skinner’s life. As a child, he sang in the choir at Marsh Swamp Original Free Will Baptist Church in Rock Ridge and took piano lessons. His parents, Jesse and Wendy, worked to find opportunities.

“I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t singing. It’s crazy to think back on it, but there really isn’t.”

In seventh grade, Skinner made his debut with ACT! for Youth in “Blather, Blarney and Balderdash,” a play about a trio of leprechauns who try to help a shepherd win his true love’s heart.

Skinner continued working with the group throughout high school as well as being a member of the Hunt High School chorus. After high school, Skinner went to Wingate University, where he developed his skills as a classically-trained opera singer while also doing work in musical theater. He excelled at Wingate, and upon graduation, went to the University of Kentucky for graduate study.

While there, surrounded by what he described as “big ole, honking voices,” Skinner’s voice was stripped, and he had to start over again as a singer.

“I had a mid-life crisis,” said Skinner, who is 25. “I never really knew who I was without singing, but that was when I met my acting teacher.”

While Skinner worked to rebuild his voice, he realized he had a knack for comedy. Overlooked in his operatic vocal program, he decided to audition for the school’s production of “Little Shop of Horrors.” Taking part in that show led to what Skinner described as one of the best experiences of his life, playing the role of Captain Andy in “Showboat.”

“To work on that subject matter during a time period that was so tumultuous, and I had to pull so much research. It was the hardest show to give away from,” Skinner said. “I truly would get on that stage, and I would leave so exhausted because it was emotionally draining.”

Given Skinner’s lifelong love of music and performance, some may find his offstage personality a bit surprising.

“I am not an extrovert. I’m really an introvert,” said Skinner. “We’re a bunch of thinkers, but I am happiest when I’m up on stage.”

Being an introvert has informed Skinner’s acting philosophy, because taking on new characters gives him an escape from being himself. Introverts, he said, are people watchers who notice and pick up mannerisms that they then can attribute to their characters.

“A lot of people take who they really are and try to put it on stage, and I am not that. I live as myself every single day. Give me a chance to be someone else.”