Elizabethton’s Teresa Bowers-Parker: ‘I’ve been blessed’
Published 9:21 am Thursday, October 29, 2015
Music means different things to different people. To Teresa Bowers-Parker, music has always been there for her, even when people haven’t.
In short, music has been her blessing.
“Music has given so much meaning to my life,” Teresa said, during a recent visit to her hometown, Elizabethton. “In fact, music has opened doors for me.”
The name Teresa Bowers became well-known in the community and beyond — especially after her stint with a Broadway company’s production of “Ain’t Misbehaving.”
But now, Teresa, who still lives in New York, is very active in her church, Unbroken Chain, and has been teaching music at Baruch College — part of the City University of New York — since 1994.
She is also admittedly homesick.
“I’m just about ready to come out of New York and come home, but not just yet,” said Teresa. “I see my home, can breathe the crisp, clean air, and see the mountains. It’s calling out to me.”
The daughter of the late George and Elvina Bowers, Teresa is part of a musical family, which includes her sister, Loretta, and brother, Robert. She also has a second sister and brother.
“My parents also were musically inclined,” she said. “When we were growing up we sang as a family, mostly at church related events.”
However, the family did sing as an opening act for Comedian Bob Hope at the opening of the East Tennessee State University Mini Dome.
Teresa’s earliest memories of singing were in the church choir at the age of six. “Music has been such an important part of my life,” she said. “The Lord has been faithful to me. I can smile. I can sing. My parents were so supportive, so encouraging to me and my siblings.”
When she attended East Tennessee State University, Robert Lapella was her voice teacher, and he became one of her best supporters. “He taught me so much and encouraged me to take my music further,” Teresa said.
After her graduation from ETSU, Teresa continued her education at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music on a scholarship and with the help of a Johson City woman’s club, her big opportunity came while working with a small company of performers in Cincinnati.
“I went to New York for two weeks to visit some friends, and when they learned I was studying opera, they suggested that I audition for a role in the Broadway musical ‘Ain’t Misbehaving.’ I did, and came back to Cincinnati the next day. A month later I received a call, asking if I could come for a call back. They flew me in for a day. That was in 1979 and I got the role as a replacement, and began working with the First National Company. Initially, we went on the road for seven months. We would go into a city and stay several weeks doing the musical. Among our stops were Boston, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.,” she recalled.
Teresa worked in that show for more than 3 1/2 years. They closed the show out in New York in 1983.
For about a year, Teresa’s sister Loretta also worked with the First National Company and was Teresa’s understudy for a while. “But, she wanted to come home, and that was the end of Broadway for her,” Teresa said.
After “Ain’t Misbehaving,” Teresa worked in regional theaters, on tours, and did concerts. But, much of her work now involves ministry with her church.
She most recently performed with the vocal group, Just Friends, a group that has cultivated an enthusiastic following in the New York area. They have performed with the Dance Theater of Harlem, Alice Parker and Melodious Accord and the Canadian Brass. They have also appeared on HBO as well as at the Riverside Church.
Also, this summer she was a sub and sang in a chorus for “Revelations,” a production of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. “That was on my bucket list,” Teresa said.
“Cincinnati Conservatory provided me with excellent training and musical foundations for New York,” Teresa said. “At the time I never realized the importance of what I was learning, but years later I’d be performing or rehearsing and I’d say, ‘Oh yeah, I know that; I learned it at CCM.”
“The Lord has taken me step by step in my career, and in my life,” she added.
Over the past few years, Teresa says her career has changed. She works full time at City University of New York as a counselor/coordinator, where she also gives private voice lessons and works with the chorus at Baruch College.
She and her husband live in Brooklyn, where he works as a testing director.
If she could sum up her life in one word, it would be “blessed.”
“I’m blessed because I know the Lord is watching over me. I have a wonderful family, and I’ve had doors opened for me every step of the way,” Teresa said. “I’ve had some great experiences. Life has been good, but the Lord has been even better.”