Sunday, July 3, 2016

Dr. Eric Conway: 20 Members of Morgan State University Choir Sing a Whirlwind Performance for 3,800 Members of Links, Incorporated at Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas

Dr. Eric Conway writes:

Hello all, 

About a year ago, Morgan alumna, Joyce Turnipseed asked if I would consider bringing the Morgan State University Choir to Las Vegas for a Links, Incorporated National Convention.  The Links group is an organization, made up mainly of African American women, who are connected for their love for community and philanthropy.  This year’s convention was special because the group was celebrating seventy years as an organization, established in 1946. With Mrs. Turnipseed's perseverance and contributions of several of the members, they were able to bring 20 members of the Morgan State University Choir to the beautiful Mandalay Bay Resort in Las Vegas, NV.  The plan was for us to leave early on the day before the main event, sing for the luncheon, and fly out immediately afterwards.

The plan was to leave Morgan at 4:15 a.m. to make a 6:40 a.m. direct flight to Las Vegas, arriving at 8:40 a.m..  However, upon arrival at the airport, we were told that the flight was cancelled due to monsoon-like rains in the Vegas area. Who would think of flights being cancelled in the summer because of weather events!?  Because we were a group of 21, it was very difficult to book another flight.  The Southwest agent found a 4:30 p.m. flight NOT out of BWI, but from the Ronald Reagan Airport in Washington DC, with a connecting flight in Chicago-Midway after a layover.  After retrieving the bus that took us, we returned to Morgan to stay there for over five hours to depart for Washington, DC at 1:00 PM on a very long sojourn.  We arrived in Vegas at 9:00 p.m. and at the hotel at 10:00 p.m.  (which was 1 a.m. EST).  Unfortunately, this meant that we would only be in Vegas for 18 hours, rather than the planned day and a half stay.  Well, such is the life of a performing musician!

When we arrived, Joyce Turnipseed was quite the hostess, meeting us in the hotel lobby upon arrival, arranging a special welcome meal for us in the a special room of the connecting Las Vegas Convention Center.  Most did not get to bed until very late with a full 24 hours of travel time!  

The Mandalay Bay is one of the premium hotels in Las Vegas and one of the best that we have ever stayed.  Every room perfectly appointed with every amenity that one could possibly imagine.  I stayed in room number 20-314 which confused me at first. The hotel was so very large that each floor had over 100 rooms, so conventional numbering wouldn’t work.  I stayed on the 20th floor, in the third spoke of the rooms on the floor, in room 14.  Just an enormous hotel!  

In the morning, there was just enough time to quickly walk “The Strip” and see some of Las Vegas sites.  Having not been to Las Vegas in over twenty years, I found it very different than I remember.  One major difference is that the strip had been widened by a lane or two on each side.  Additionally, pedestrians are no longer allowed to walk directly across the street on street level, but must walk up the skywalk above the roadway. This helps traffic in a great way.  Pedestrians are not cluttering the around the strip, making traffic almost bottle-neck in the heart of the hotel/resort district.  Although I did not purchase many, if any souvenirs, I found an establishment called Bling in the New York, New York casino/hotel!  This was a jewelry store that had very high quality costume-jewelry.  I bought my wife a very beautiful sterling silver tennis bracelet with some very high quality cubic-zirconia - only in Vegas!

At the 11 a.m., checkout time, we brought our luggage down to be held in baggage claim until our departure.  We walked to the convention center which was attached to the hotel.  It must have been at least a half mile walk to the convention center from the hotel lobby.  We arrived to see perhaps the largest convention room space that we have ever performed. Over 3,800 African-American women were in attendance.  Our music was interspersed throughout this keynote luncheon.  We performed several selections from our repertoire.  One of the Links’ members,  Jacqueline Hairston was a well-known arranger, whom we worked with when we last sang with Kathleen Battle.  We sang her “Don’t You Let Nobody Turn You Around.”  We learned “The Greatest Love of All” in tribute to the recent passing of the Greatest:  Muhammad Ali.  We were told that our music was one of the the highlights of the convention.
We returned to BWI at 12:55 a.m. to arrive back to Morgan at 1:50 a.m..  Was it worth it for us to go to Las Vegas for only 18 hours?  None of the Morgan students had ever been to Las Vegas.  Many had never stayed at a hotel like the Mandalay Bay.  Beyond sharing our music, we sing for events like this Links National convention to further promote the Morgan State University brand and share our music with even a wider audience.  Joyce Turnipseed and other Morgan alums that were present today, were so very proud.  Morgan State University as an institution was given plaudits however peripheral as it may have been.  

Again, the Morgan State University Choir understands that what we do is important and will continue to sing in a manner that brings honor and glory to our institution.


By The Links, Inc. (@linksinc

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