There is no such beauty
As where you belong;
Rise up, follow me,
I will lead you home.
Hannah White will sing those lyrics from “The Road Home” during this morning’s baccalaureate service at Maryville College in a solo with the Concert Choir.
The 27-year-old receiving her music degree this afternoon says she felt at home at Maryville College before enrolling as a student.
A Sevierville native, White came to the college to see friends perform.
“There was this amazing feeling of community immediately,” she said.
White had been studying at Walters State Community College but decided to transfer to Maryville in the spring semester of 2013. Unfortunately, several of her credits didn’t transfer. “I kind of had to start over,” White said.
A commuter student, White would sometimes study with her mother, Cindy White, who was earning a degree from Liberty University. “She would help me with editing, and I would help her with math,” Hannah said.
In fall 2015, however, White said she fell into a deep depression. “I’m not sure what the trigger was,” she said. With support from friends and faculty, she medically withdrew from the college during the 2016-17 academic year and moved back in with her family to heal.
“I took a year off to give myself time to rebuild my mental health,” she said. “I feel wise having taken a step back.”
She considers herself a “people pleaser” and said she was able to gain a better understanding of herself and what she needed. Now she knows she can take an hour or two or even a day to recharge, unplugging from social media and reading a book or taking a drive to the mountains or a hike at Norris Lake with her boyfriend.
During that time, White’s mother was completing her degree and becoming a teacher. That inspired the daughter, who said she knew she would regret it if she didn’t finish.
“Maryville College gave me a second chance in a lot of ways,” White said. She grew as a musician and discovered just as much satisfaction teaching as performing, if not more.
She also credits Maryville College with feeling like a big family, where everyone knows your name. “It is a constant net of support around you,” she said.
“Some of my best memories to date have been made at Maryville College,” she said.
While many new graduates struggle to find a job, White has been working four.
Next week she’ll complete a work-study assignment at Maryville College, and she’s a server at Sullivan’s Downtown.
She gives private voice lessons for a range of clients, from a teenage boy to an experienced musician, working with each to see what they need.
Although she’s been living in Strawberry Plains, White plans to move to Maryville soon and wants to open a studio. “I feel Maryville’s where I’m being called to be,” she said. “I want to give back to the community that has given to me.”
For the same reasons, she hopes to open a second location in Sevierville one day, too.
White also performs at The Great Smoky Mountain Murder Mystery Dinner Show in Pigeon Forge. She enjoys performing so much, “I don’t even feel like it’s a job,” she said.
At MC, White has been involved in both opera and theater productions, earlier this year portraying Judy in the musical “9 to 5.”
Describing herself as “a huge Broadway fan,” White said she enjoys performing that type of music.
“You really have to be invested in the character, mind, body and soul,” she said.
One of her favorite Broadway tunes is from “Wicked,” which she saw in New York City in 2007.
The song is “Defying Gravity,” and on Friday she said, “That’s kind of how I feel.”