UT Student Opry Mills

Rebecca Lee Daniels, sophomore in social work, started singing at open mics in her hometown in Northeastern Tennessee. 

Students at UT are surrounded by culture emanating the history of the South, particularly through country music, since the campus is located just a few hours away from Nashville, also known as Music City.

Rebecca Lee Daniels, sophomore in social work, has been singing her whole life, but only put her talents on display when she first sang at her eighth grade talent show. At 16, Daniels began singing at open mics in her hometown in Northeastern Tennessee. She received assistance from her aunt Lucinda, a singer/songwriter located in Charlotte, and her father, who is also a musician.

“Growing up I always took his knowledge and understanding of it for granted but now I am so thankful,” Daniels said. “He was patient with me while I found my voice and discovered how amazing music is. I wouldn’t be doing music at all if it wasn’t for him. He’s my biggest supporter.”

Daniels taught herself guitar at 15, as she was too nervous to sing on her own and thought that having a guitar as a shield would be less scary. She sings many different genres, including Americana, folk, country and jazz.

Daniels mainly performs near her hometown, but she has recently taken part in a statewide songwriting contest and has some upcoming shows in Gatlinburg. Additionally, towards the beginning of the semester, Daniels received a message from a woman from the Opry Entertainment Group. She was looking for local acts that represented the region to sing at Blake Shelton’s newest restaurant in his Ole Red franchise, and she wanted Daniels to be a part of it.

“I thought it was fake or way too good to be true but it’s real,” Daniels said. “I got offered three shows their opening month of March and had to use up all of my absences in my classes for the gigs because they’re all Thursdays at lunch time but it’s so worth it. I really hope I get to play there some more.”

As more music opportunities appeared for Daniels, she realized that she wanted to pursue music as a professional career.

“I was seeing all my friends get into their core classes of engineering or bio-chem and I was so jealous because I just wasn’t feeling that fire and spark with my major,” Daniels said.

Although Daniels said she will miss UT, she has made the decision to transfer to Middle Tennessee State University for her career path.

“Nashville is such a hub and special place for music because it is so cherished and valued there. I am so excited and hopeful about finding my place in this career field whatever and wherever that may be,” Daniels said.

Jalyn Westmoreland, junior in animal science, is a friend of Daniels and enjoys her performances.

“I cannot be happier for her for this new opportunity. Everyone will love her instantly because she’s a fantastic performer and singer along with an insanely kind personality,” Westmoreland said. “I see Rebecca thriving with her music and making it big anywhere she goes. I have personally watched her work so hard to get where she is today and she deserves all this and more. Her next big stop will be Nashville and there’s no doubt in my mind that she’ll win the hearts of everyone there as well.”

Overall, Daniels is excited to kick-start her new path pursuing music and moving on to new opportunities.

“I have been extremely fortunate that wonderful opportunities have always found me whether it be being offered an awesome gig or meeting a right person at a right time,” Daniels said. “I’ve learned there’s always a silver lining because even from my lowest point I have created music and music is the most magical thing in the world.”

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