Marie Osmond will be performing at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center on Saturday night. (Photo submitted)
Marie Osmond will be performing at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center on Saturday night. (Photo submitted)

By Brian Hess

Times Bulletin Editor

VAN WERT — Oct. 1 will be a night to remember for Van Wert County. This date marks the 15th anniversary of the Niswonger Performing Arts Center. In celebration the Center is hosting the Founders’ Fifteen Years of Fame concert headlined by the woman whose concert opened the Center in 2007: Marie Osmond.

Marie Osmond is a show business icon and most of us remember watching her on television, whether on Donny and Marie (1976-79), Ripley’s Believe it or Not! (1985) or the numerous Osmond family specials. More recently she has been featured on Dancing With the Stars (2007), and been a talk show host on her series Marie (2012-13) and as a panelist on The Talk (2019-20). During her 6-decade career Osmond has worn many hats: singer, actress, dancer, author, entrepreneur, public speaker and advocate for the cause of postpartum depression.

The Times Bulletin was recently able to speak to Ms. Osmond about her illustrious career. When asked what she had learned over those years she mentioned her many mentors. “I learned from the best,” adding Lucille Ball and Frank Sinatra to that list. “Bob Hope showed me how to appeal to a crowd,” while “Sammy Davis, Jr. taught me how to walk onto a stage.” Her humility is obvious.

She answered the phone herself, and explained that a lifetime in the spotlight had made her comfortable talking to the press without the need for too many handlers. She insisted on being addressed on a first-name basis and was gracious and thoughtful throughout the conversation.

When asked what fans could expect of Saturday’s show she explained that it would be “a banquet of musical styles,” adding her love of Rodgers and Hammerstein (she toured with James Hammerstein as a ‘Hammerstein Girl’ in the 1970s) and opera, in addition to contemporary pop and standards from American musical theater from 1920-1960, what has become known as ‘The Great American Songbook’ since the early 1970s.

Ms. Osmond was proud that she was one of the very few female performers to have success performing in several different genres throughout her career. Her first hit, “Paper Roses” was a country ballad that hit #1 on both Billboard’s Pop and country charts—an astonishing feat even now. She will also be performing songs from Unexpected (2021), her newest album which debuted at #1 on Billboard’s Classical Crossover Albums chart last December, and spent 17 weeks in the Top 10. Her backing for the Saturday night concert will include the Lima Symphony Orchestra and a special Youth Choir of Van Wert County.

When asked about her proudest accomplishment, however, her answer was simple: “My children and grandchildren.”

Second was the creation of the Children’s Miracle Network, a charitable organization she co-founded in 1983 with her friend John Schneider of ‘Dukes of Hazard’ fame. When trying to get Schneider’s help for a children’s charity in the early ’80s she was told by the organizers Schneider couldn’t participate because he had already endorsed another charity. “It was like a segregation of children’s diseases,” she explained. Incensed at the idea of kids suffering over petty rivalries, she and Schneider teamed up to create the Network which has raised $8 billion to date.

The organization is unique because it doesn’t discriminate: all diseases (and all children) are treated equally. It is also fiscally responsible. Osmond assured the Times Bulletin that 100% of the funding went to helping children, and the money remained local to the place of its donation. This is unusual because most charities use a percentage of their donations to fund the charity, and kids “might only see 30 or 40% of that money.” She mentioned her late friend Olivia Newton-John, adding that life is short and only by giving back to others could we hope to live on and make a difference in the next generation: “I hope my children remember me for Children’s Miracle Network.”

In addition to Scott and Nikki Niswonger and the Van Wert County Foundation, the event is co-sponsored by several local residents and businesses, including: Gary Taylor, Bruce and Julie Kennedy, Tom and Julie Burenga, Tim and Kari Stoller, Kenn-Feld Group, Strategence Capital, Lee Kinstle GMC and Taylor Auto Sales. Tafi Stober, Executive Director of the N.P.A.C. said the mission of the Center is “to provide entertainment experiences that are so good they demand a return.” Tickets for the concert are still available through the Center’s website.

“This has been a rough couple of years,” Osmond added. “People need love and light.”

Indeed they do, and indeed they will on October 1st at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center.