A Performer with a Gift

Rivers Brunson Experience, Giving

When Erica Burleson takes the stage, everyone in the room remembers.

“I wanted my performance to be very dramatic; I wanted to make sure that I had an on-stage presence that you’d want to watch and listen, and that you wouldn’t want to end after 90 seconds,” Erica said.

A gifted musician in both piano and violin, the reigning Miss University of Mobile enjoys the mobility the violin affords her on stage. When she played an amped-up version of “Phantom of the Opera” for a room full of thousands of people at the Miss Alabama Pageant, it was a moment she would never forget.

Erica is a piano performance major from Satsuma, Alabama, and was crowned Miss University of Mobile 2018 at the 53rd annual pageant in November 2017. In addition to the title of Miss UM, she also took home the talent award and the People’s Choice award, and was named Miss Congeniality by her fellow contestants.

When Erica took her high-energy performance to Birmingham for the Miss Alabama Pageant in June 2018, she walked away with the non-finalist Talent Award. She said during the week of grueling practice, back-to-back events, and nerve-wracking competition, she felt the warmth of her tight-knit University of Mobile community – even from three hours away.

“While at Miss Alabama, I didn’t expect so many people to be thinking of me. I received gifts from nearly every office at the university. I felt so loved,” she said. “I kept thinking that I couldn’t be at Miss Alabama if I weren’t Miss UM, and I wouldn’t be Miss UM if it weren’t for donors.”

When she was considering colleges, she wondered if she would be able to afford University of Mobile. She asked God to provide a way if He wanted her to go. When He paved the way for her with scholarships, she knew University of Mobile was the place for her. She considered it further confirmation when the university became an All-Steinway institution, due entirely to donor contributions.

“As a piano performance major, performing on Steinways makes a difference. We like to say that a Steinway responds to your thoughts rather than just your touch,” Erica said, with excitement in her voice.

“You know that when you perform, your instrument will respond in the way you desire, and donors made that possible for us.”

And that is a gift that is hard to forget.

About the Author

Rivers Brunson

Rivers is an experienced writer and an alumna of University of Mobile. She graduated in 2015 and holds a Bachelor of Science in Communication. She returned to University of Mobile professionally as marketing communications specialist in 2017. She also hosts a podcast with Bellum Creative Group called Due South about Southern arts and culture. A Grove Hill, Alabama native, Rivers fell in love with the city of Mobile as an undergraduate student and now calls it home; however she takes frequent trips to see her family who are NAMB church planters in Livingston, Montana. She has a lovable golden retriever named Cooper.