A local veteran and the mother of five has earned the honor of performing at the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival (NVCAF) this October in Jackson, Mississippi.
Cynthia Flanagan of Hillsville was chosen as just one of 24 veterans to perform at the week-long festival out of more than 3,000 entries. The NVCAF is a VA Program designed to demonstrate the impact of ‘Creative Arts in Therapy’ for Veterans. Veterans who are enrolled for treatment at the Salem VAMC were invited to participate in a local competition within five different divisions: Art, Creative Writing, Dance, Drama, and Music. A former Captainin the U.S. Air Force Nurse Corps during the Gulf War, Flanagan won gold in music division in the Instrumental Solo Classical Division for her piano rendition of Chopin’s Etude in E Major, also known as Tristesse.
“It talks about his homeland and his deep love for it. He was a Polish composer and it is a piece that many people have heard and it has endeared a lot of people,” Flanagan said. “It is an honor (to be able to perform in the national festival). I think it is a nice thing for the veterans to showcase their talents and some of them look forward to this every year. It is something for the veterans to bring them enjoyment and something for them to share with others.”
In order to participate, you must be a veteran and you must receive care at the facility you enter, which in Flanagan’s case is the Salem VA. The National Veterans Creative Arts Festival will be held Oct. 10-17 in Jackson, Mississippi, and Flanagan is scheduled to perform Oct. 16.
Flanagan said John Koelsch told her husband, Glen, also an Air Force veteran, about the competition. She said she made a recording of her performance in February and found out in June she had won her division. The victory held special significance for Flanagan, who was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2011.
“I had been a nurse, but after I was diagnosed I went back to school to get my music degree. Sometimes I have memory problems in sections, so I was really proud of myself to win this because I had to overcome a lot to do that,” Flanagan said. “I do my piece from memory and many times you have cognitive problems with MS, so this was quite a challenge for me. I am proud of myself for finishing that music degree in May and now I am going back to school to get my Masters.”
Flanagan has five children, two of which have completed their undergraduate degrees, another currently enrolled at Radford University, and two that are currently being homeschooled. She is also a piano teacher in the area, teaching at the Carter House in Hillsville and Barr’s Fiddle Shop in Galax.
Allen Worrell can be reached at (276) 779-4062 or on [email protected]