Show Business or Classroom? Singer Cassie Franklin Preparing for Both
By Sherry Kughn
JSU News Bureau
April 12, 2004 --Singer Cassandra "Cassie" Franklin is almost certain
a big decision is in her future -- either to teach school or to sing
Franklin sang for the soundtrack of the civil war movie, Cold
Based on one of the most acclaimed novels in recent memory, "Cold Mountain" sets
off on a true American odyssey through a time that saw some of the greatest
ferocity -- and heroism -- the nation has ever known. Fearing for the safety of
his beloved Ada, a wounded Confederate soldier, Inman, makes his way across the
war-ravaged South, back to her farm on Cold Mountain. He faces trials and
tribulations as he encounters slaves and bounty hunters, soldiers and witches,
unexpected friends and dangerous enemies at every turn.
Following her success with Cold Mountain, Franklin wants to be
prepared for either career -- singing or teaching. The twenty-one-year-old is
pursuing a teaching degree in the social sciences at Jacksonville State
University. She hopes to graduate next year and teach history, possibly in a
school similar to Sumiton Christian School, where she attended while growing
up in Sumiton, near Birmingham. She now commutes 140 miles round trip daily
to JSU from Henagar, which is near Fort Payne.
Franklin's singing is in
the tradition of the five family generations before her as part of a group
of sacred harp singers scattered throughout the nation and in England. She
is under contract with Sony Music, too, for the song, Lady
Margaret, and must travel when they tell her to. Singing under contract
is a career she had never before considered, but it is one that has opened
doors for her.
A few years ago, a musician and fan of sacred harp
music, Tim Eriksen, began traveling to Henagar to attend the singings there
and wherever else they were held. He loved the rare beauty and simplicity
of the a cappella music, which Franklin and other members sing with the
names of the notes, such as "fa-so-la" before they repeat the song with its
Eriksen later learned of the Cold Mountain movie project, and he
remembered the sacred harp singings, especially those at the Liberty Church
in Henagar. He recommended to music producer T-Bone Burnette that the
soundtrack for the movie be recorded at the Church.
Arrangements were made, and during the summer of 2002 the recordings
took place. Franklin, who was a part of that recording, was a student at
Beville State Community College in Sumiton. After the recording, she
continued in school until she graduated in December with an associate degree
in liberal arts. She then went to work in sales in Birmingham and kept up
with her travels to sacred harp singings.
Franklin started classes at
JSU in August of 2003, only a month before Eriksen called to say he needed a
soloist for the Cold Mountain soundtrack. He wanted her to come to
Nashville to record. She first talked it over with her JSU professors, then
made the trip. Franklin so impressed the music producers that they invited
her back for a second recording session. Her solo appears on the soundtrack,
as well as the other songs for which she sings backup.
were helpful in arranging the makeup work," said Franklin. "I appreciated
Before the semester ended, Franklin and some of the other sacred
harp singers were called to Hollywood to perform for an A&E television
special at the first part of December to promote the premier of Cold
Mountain. Again, she missed a few classes but made up the work, except
for one missed final, which she plans to make up soon.
In January of
2004, Franklin developed a sinus infection and bronchitis. She was
determined to finish school, though, so she enrolled in the spring semester.
A fluke happened. Sony called her in March, about the time her voice was
healing, and asked her and the other singers to perform at the Oscars. It
was a lifetime opportunity, one that any singer would be proud of.
was excited," said Franklin, "although we all took it in stride." The group
flew to Los Angeles at the end of February and stayed until the beginning of
Franklin has missed few classes since. Her agents at Sony
Records know that she wants to finish school. She has a few other
engagements soon, such as a trip to Fort Worth for Sony for another Cold
Mountain music tour, and then a trip to Chicago for a sacred harp
convention. She plans to skip May term but plans to return to JSU in June
and July for Summer I and II.
Thanks to the soundtrack, Franklin has
another music project. Folk musician Martyn Wyndham Read of England heard
her and wants to record her singing folk songs from England and America.
Still, Franklin doesn't appear overwhelmed by all that's happened to her.
"These experiences haven't changed me," she said. "I'm still the same
person. My goals are still the same goals."
herself as "laid back." Her looks confirm her description. She recently
appeared for an interview in jeans, a tee-shirt, and her hair held back with
sunglasses. One difference between her and most students that day: she had a
fiddle in a canvas bag slung over her shoulder. She couldn't leave it in the
car, she said, because it might get hot -- not good for any stringed
Franklin is eager to finish her degree and spend more time
with the man she is dating, Billy Vines of Sumiton. He has two sons, both of
whom are learning sacred harp music. "I'm teaching it to Billy, too,"
In the meantime, Franklin attends class, studies, and
takes advantage of whatever singing she can do.
"There might come a
time when I have to decide between teaching and singing," said Franklin. "In
that case, I'd choose singing."
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