A little hometown appreciation

Country music recording artist Matt Stillwell will return to his roots Thursday, Oct. 15, for a hometown Homecoming week concert at Western Carolina University to help his alma mater celebrate a major milestone.

Stillwell, a Sylva native who played baseball at Western Carolina before graduating in 1998 and going on to launch a successful career in the music business, will perform in a free concert beginning about 3 p.m. on the lawn of WCU’s A.K. Hinds University Center.

The concert is part of a block party being thrown by the university to mark the conclusion of its first-ever comprehensive fundraising campaign. Christened the Campaign for Western Carolina and centered on the theme of “Creating Extraordinary Opportunities,” the campaign was publicly launched in February 2007 with a goal of $40 million in private contributions to WCU.

Stillwell will take to the stage immediately after the conclusion of “Extraordinary Opportunities Created,” a public ceremony beginning at 2 p.m. in the recital hall of the Coulter Building during which the final tally of the fundraising campaign will be officially revealed.

The celebration is open to all WCU faculty, staff and students, and to residents of the surrounding community. The event will include free ice cream, popcorn and snow cones, in addition to the free concert.

Growing up in Sylva, Stillwell played baseball, football and basketball, and participated in chorus and theater at Smoky Mountain High School. At WCU, he was a member of the Southern Conference Championship-winning Catamount baseball team, playing infield and outfield. By his junior year, he was being touted as a professional prospect. When that didn’t happen, he turned back to music.

“I could have chased the dream and tried out and played independent ball, but I thought, ‘If I’m going to chase something, I’d rather it be music,’” Stillwell said. So he traded hitting singles and homeruns on the baseball diamond for recording hit singles in the studio, heading off to Nashville to launch a career as a country performer.

Earning a reputation as a high-energy performer, Stillwell has become one of the Southeast’s most in-demand musicians. He is touring in support of his 2008 release “Shine,” which features the title-track single. The song’s video was recorded last year at Fontana Village Resort.

Today’s Country magazine touts Stillwell as “a great, new country artist,” and Internet-based country music magazine Roughstock hails “Shine” as “the work of an artist who could rival country music’s big guns.”

For more information about Stillwell’s free performance at WCU as part of events to celebrate the Campaign for Western Carolina, contact the Office of Development at 828.227.7124 or visit campaign.wcu.edu.

Parking will be available at the baseball stadium lot off Forest Hills Road, with shuttles running from 11:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. from the lot to A.K. Hinds University Center.

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