Connie Ladyman recalls a time she had taken her then 10-year-old daughter, Morgan Ladyman, to see Mary Poppins on Broadway. The pair watched the actress float down on the stage in front of them.
Several years later, Ladyman landed the role of Mary Poppins in a production at Gibault Catholic High School during her sophomore year.
“I remember sitting in the audience crying tears of happiness not ever thinking Morgan would someday be floating down in front of an audience,” Connie Ladyman said.
Now, the junior communication sciences and disorders major will participate in the Celebration of Music, a competition showcasing young talent from across America, as a singing talent.
The Celebration of Music is a talent competition hosted by Ethan Bortnick, a young musician whose career was kickstarted by the Public Broadcasting Service. Bortnick created the competition in order “to give young musicians the same opportunities that PBS afforded him” as a kid.
Morgan auditioned for this competition by submitting a video after a friend of hers in the theater department shared the opportunity with her.
Morgan has been singing competitively since she was a young girl. She has auditioned for several talent competition shows including The Voice, where she received three callbacks, America’s Got Talent, where she received one callback, and American Idol.
Morgan made it in the top 40 participating in the St. Louis Teen Talent competition and even won the 92.3 WIL competition in 2014 as a freshman in high school. As a reward for winning the 92.3 WIL competition, Ladyman opened for several artists at the Jinglefest Concert at the Family Arena in St. Charles, Missouri.
This win came after a loss of the same competition the year before which caused Morgan to seek out the assistance of Joe Zarkie, a vocal coach, who encouraged her to join a teen band. For their first gig, she had to learn 40 songs in the span of two weeks.
“She looked so natural,” Zarkie said. “I am in awe, even today, when I watch those videos, realizing that was her very first performance with the band.”
Those performances and competitions mean more to Morgan than just success.
“I loved every single one of these,” Morgan said. “While I did not win every one, I truly think the reason I loved being a part of them was simply just experiencing the love of music with so many other people.”
Zarkie, who continues to work with Morgan, recognizes her passion and determination for singing, but also her kindness.
“I believe the most valuable asset Morgan has is her faith and willingness to help anyone who needs it,” Zarkie said. “On top of everything else, she has a heart of gold. I have worked with hundreds of students in my lifetime and without a doubt, Morgan is my number one favorite.”
Although Morgan’s main focus is on singing, she is a woman of many talents. She also plays the piano, flute and guitar.
“I have been playing the piano since I was 5,” Morgan said. “I could not even reach the pedals. I played the flute from fourth to eighth grade, but I do not play that too much now. And I just recently started learning how to play guitar.”
Much of Morgan’s interest in music stems from her childhood when she constantly sang karaoke with her grandpa and performed in musicals, starting the summer after fifth grade. Since then, she has starred in at least three shows a year and performed with bands in restaurants and festivals across the St. Louis area.
Morgan’s mom, Connie, even took it upon herself to take her daughter to New York City once a month to see a Broadway show through the half-price ticket booth.
Though her parents have supported her passion for music, Morgan said her parents are not musical themselves.
“Going to New York City with my mom and seeing all of the shows on Broadway definitely had something to do with me falling in love with the art of music,” Ladyman said. “But everyone always asks me if either of my parents sing and my answer to that is ‘Heck no!’ I am not exactly sure where my love for music came from, but it is definitely not hereditary.”
Ladyman’s inspiration springs from those who love music as much as she does, she said.
“I really turn towards musicians and artists that are in it for the real reason, to spread love and joy through music,” Ladyman said. “I look up to any musician that truly puts their heart and soul into everything they do.”
Although Ladyman has experienced success in her musical career, she remains grounded and recognizes and appreciates where she comes from and what she has.
“Go Bears!” Ladyman said. “I am super excited to embark on the L.A. journey and cannot wait to experience the industry out there. However, my heart is forever here at Missouri State.”