Please don’t tell Selene Sharpe to break a leg
This Desautels soprano won the 2019 Manitoba Marathon!
At 19 years old, Selene Sharpe was the youngest person running the 2019 Manitoba Marathon, but it clearly didn’t slow her down. Known in the Desautels Faculty of Music for her assiduous work ethic, vocal talent, and focus, the second-year voice student powered through 26.2 miles of Winnipeg’s downtown to win the marathon, only weeks after completing her final exams!
While many elite athletes run marathons for years before reaching a level of performance where they place among the top performers, this was only Selene’s second ever full-length marathon. Her first, the 2018 Manitoba Marathon, earned her an incredible second place finish. It is impossible to overstate just how rare an accomplishment this is.
Elite marathoners typically train with a coach. Leave it to a musician to play it by ear when it came to marathon training.
“Last year I used an online training plan for beginner marathon runners,” says Selene. “This year, however, I compiled a little bit of my own knowledge, as well as some research on what more advanced marathon training entails, and trained a little bit more by feel.”
When it came to athletics, Selene started out as many young athletes do. Parents need a way for their kids to get rid of some of their boundless energy, and sign them up for sports!
“My parents put my siblings and me into sports at a very young age,” she says. I played soccer, danced, swam, skated, and ran. I think we were all pretty rambunctious children, so these activities were a way to blow off some steam, and have fun while doing it!”
Her love for running was immediate, and she continued to run on her schools’ cross-country and track teams throughout elementary, middle, and high school.
Her first foray into the Manitoba Marathon community was when she was in third grade, where she ran the event’s Super Run, a short, non-competitive run for both children and adults. The following year, she ran a leg of the Manitoba Marathon Team Relay, and did so each year until she decided to give the half marathon a shot when she was 16 years old. At age 16, she placed twelfth in her age group. At 17, she placed fourth in her age group. And at 18, she ran the full marathon, the results of which are stated above.
“I love the community aspect of running,” Selene says. “I have met so many amazing friends and coaches through running, people who have been instrumental not only in my development as a runner, but also in shaping who I am outside of running.”
Selene also uses running as a way to connect to her mind, body, and spirit.
“I just love the sense of freedom I feel when I run,” she says. “If I have a lot on my mind, I find that running helps me to release any negative emotions I’m internalizing. Even if it is just for 30 minutes, I can forget about the things that are causing me stress, and I can just focus on running.”
While relatively new to marathons, Selene is certainly no stranger to competition, whether onstage or off. She regularly participates in the prestigious and highly-competitive Winnipeg Music Festival. At age 15, she won the festival’s W.H. Anderson Memorial Trophy for top vocal performance by competitors 16 and under, and, in 2019, she was the runner-up for the festival’s Alma Wynne Memorial Trophy for the most outstanding vocal performance by a competitor 18 or younger. Music has long been a part of her life.
“I started out with piano lessons at a very young age! It wasn’t long until my mom and my teacher realized that my musical passions weren’t so much at the keyboard though,” Selene says.
She remembers her first vocal performance well, even if it didn’t end with a standing ovation.
“One of the first times I sang in front of an audience was at a small talent show held at the local community centre near my cottage,” she says. “I was around 7 years old, and sang ‘My Favourite Things’ from my favourite musical, The Sound of Music. I was so nervous that I forgot the words, and my sister had to whisper the lyrics to me from offstage,” she laughs.
That initial stage fright didn’t scare her away from singing.
“I knew that I loved to sing, and I’ve taken singing lessons ever since,” says Selene.
However, it wasn’t until her time at Kelvin High School when Selene really started to consider singing as a career path, when she watched some of her friends-turned-mentors enter various music programs at the Desautels Faculty of Music.
“I heard such wonderful things about the staff, students, and sense of community that the University of Manitoba offered, and I wanted to be a part of it,” she says.
Running After Rabbits
Just like she did with her marathon career, Selene has taken off in the Desautels Faculty of Music. As a member of both the University Singers and the Musical Theatre Ensemble, she has performed extensively in the past two years.
She was most recently seen singing Ben Folds’ “Luckiest” with the University Singers, and had a star comedic turn playing Sally Brown from You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown in the Musical Theatre Ensemble’s spring concert of musical excerpts, where she lamented the unfairness of a poor book report grade, came up with a new philosophy on life (or, rather, several), and chased rabbits.
“Sally Brown was definitely a challenge for me!” says Selene. “I am not usually cast as a comedic character, and it really forced me to come out of my comfort zone. I had so much fun exploring Sally’s character, and the role helped me to discover a completely new side of performing. I would really love to play another comedic role in the future!”
Tracy Dahl, Canada’s premiere coloratura soprano and Selene’s major practical study instructor in the Desautels Faculty of Music, knew Selene would do a fantastic job in her role.
“Selene is a hard working student, very focused, and is full of surprises, which I love,” says Dahl. “She is willing to discover and explore new ideas.”
“Her participation in the musical theatre program run by Donna Fletcher, was revelatory. I am sure her Sally from you are a Good Man Charlie Brown was brought from the world of her running determination, adds Dahl. “I think that is a good word for her – determined. She is an excellent student and a joy to teach.”
Likewise, Selene loves working with Dahl.
“Tracy Dahl is one of my biggest inspirations and greatest supporters. She has been a role model to me for years, and I feel very fortunate to learn from such an accomplished and kind person,” says Selene. “I have had such a positive experience with all the staff in the faculty. It is wonderful to be in a program that allows for such camaraderie between students and staff.”
Running After New Goals
Selene has always loved musical theatre and performing with choirs, but recently, a new passion has begun to emerge.
“These past few years, I’ve definitely developed a greater appreciation for opera theatre,” she says.
She initially had very little interest in opera.
“When I was younger I subscribed to the idea that opera was boring,” Selene admits. “But after watching operas like Don Giovanni, Carmen, Of Mice and Men, and The Marriage of Figaro, I’ve realized that I was so wrong.”
She recently auditioned for the Manitoba Opera chorus, and hopes to perform in their upcoming productions. She is also considering auditioning for the Desautels Faculty’s Opera Theatre.
“Truly I just love to perform, whether it’s with the Musical Theatre ensemble, at music festival, or just for my family,” says Selene. “I’m not sure what my ideal career in music might look like, but I know that if I am performing for and with others, I will be happy.”
While Selene’s life is filled with music, she rarely listens to music when she’s running, preferring to focus solely on the challenge in front of her. However, musical rhythm follows her on her runs, and both passions contribute to the other in a variety of ways.
“I always find myself counting my steps metronomically, usually up to 8 counts and I find that it really helps me to keep an even pace,” she says. “I think it was a technique that I learned from my middle school cross country coach, but it must have stuck because of my background in music.”
After winning the Manitoba Marathon this year, Selene was interviewed by the Winnipeg Free Press.
“I’ve been imagining this for a long time,” she told them. She likes to focus on thinking positively about her goals and visualizing great outcomes.
“I think meditation and visualization are huge parts of both running and singing,” she says. “In my training for the marathon, I always had the most success when I could envision myself doing something great, and it helped to build my confidence as a runner. I think the same goes for singing, when I am envisioning a performance. A huge part of success is simply believing in yourself.”
From Manitoba Marathon to Netflix Marathon
Does Selene know she’s supposed to relax during summer break from university?
“Honestly, my favourite way to relax usually includes singing or running!” she laughs.
“I love to spend time at my cottage with my family. I’m always putting on mini-concerts for them, as well as running near the lake, and getting a celebratory swim afterwards,” she says. “It’s definitely different and less intense from my regular routine during the school year.”
“Having said that, I will probably be binge-watching some Netflix shows this summer!” she says.
The Desautels Faculty is incredibly proud of you, Selene. You have earned every Netflix marathon you decide to engage in, and then some. We can’t wait to continue to cheer you on from both the sideline and audience as we watch all that you will accomplish in the coming years!