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Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

Rensselaer Student-Athlete To Debut New Gospel CD at EMPAC

April 2, 2009

Rensselaer Student-Athlete To Debut New Gospel CD at EMPAC

Whitney Coleman '10
Whitney Coleman '10 (photo by Daria Robbins/RPI)

On Thursday, April 2, the Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC) Concert Hall will be filled with a new gospel sound, as Rensselaer student-athlete Whitney Coleman ’10 performs original songs from her first CD, Bright Morning Star. The free concert, beginning at 8 p.m., is open to all members of the Rensselaer campus and local community.

Known by many for her talents on the basketball court, the self-taught singer, songwriter, and musician has blended a mix of music genres including rock, hip hop, R& B, and other styles to create her music. A senior majoring in Electronic Media, Arts, and Communication (EMAC), the program will feature Whitney along with Gregory Coleman, her father; Justin Newry and Friends, Boston-based performers; and Rensselaer student-athlete Samuel E. Simmons,  an up-and-coming  hip hop  artist known as SES “Da Great” Simmons V;  as well as a videotaped dance performance by California-based dancer and choreographer Reyna Joy Banks.

“I have always been into music since I was young. I had a good ear and could play well even though I could not really read the sheet music,” said Coleman, a native of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. “The inspiration for my music comes from my faith and belief in God, which has really helped me get through some trying times in my life.”

Prior to coming to Rensselaer, Coleman suffered an ACL injury to her left knee that sidelined her basketball career during her senior year of high school. During that time, she started writing music, and credits it as a “gift” which also led to her winning the 2005 Best Female Artist for Inland Empire, a California-based music awards event.

“Gospel music has always been a part of my life and my family’s history,” Coleman said.  “It’s a music that is uplifting and encouraging. “I remember that following my first ACL injury, I felt that nobody really knew what I was going through, and I really threw myself into writing music and that really helped me get through my recovery period. The experience also helped me to realize that it was possible for me to pursue my passion for basketball and the arts, and that is why I chose to come to Rensselaer, especially upon hearing about EMPAC. I could never have imagined that I would get to play my music in such a venue. This is opportunity is truly amazing.”

Coleman noted that her album is a way for people to tap into the mind and emotion of situations that she has experienced over the past four years at Rensselaer. The concert also serves as part of Coleman’s thesis project, which has been advised by Pauline Oliveros,

“Whitney is a natural musician. Her singing will take you away,” said Oliveros, a clinical professor in Rensselaer’s art department, acclaimed internationally as a composer, performer, and humanitarian, who also serves as Coleman’s adviser. 

In 2007, Coleman suffered another ACL injury, this time to her right knee, and again relied on her faith and writing music to get through the pain and successful recovery.  A starter on Rensselaer’s women’s basketball team in 23 games this season, Coleman averaged 16.9 points per game, which was second among Liberty League scorers and first on the team. A five-time Guard of the Week, she was also first on the team in minutes per game (32.1). She was second on the squad in rebounds (6.3 per game), blocks (10) and assists (62) and third in steals (30). 

Coleman, who has 1,005 career points – which ranks 11th in school history – was also named to the All-Liberty League First Team. She was also selected to the All-East Region First Team and was considered for National All-America status.

“It is not only Whitney’s athletic ability and basketball skill that drives our team but her dynamic energy and inclusive magnetism,” said John Greene, head coach of Rensselaer’s women’s basketball team. “The qualities that set Whitney apart from the other athletes she played with and against in high school, and competes with and against here at the Institute are her intelligence, versatility, strength of character, leadership, demonstration of commitment, and positivism. She is a hard worker, fast learner, works well on a team, and has a ‘never say die’ attitude. I can honestly say that Whitney is one of the most positive, dedicated, quietly confident people I have had the privilege to work with. I truly believe that our Institute and our Women’s Basketball Program is very fortunate that Whitney chose to pursue her collegiate academic and athletic goals at Rensselaer.”

Beyond her love for basketball and music, Coleman has also carved out time to pursue a plethora of community service projects to benefit the local community, including : Capital Region Center for the Disabled CP Telethon Annual Toys for Tots Program,  Kirstin’s Walk Donation to National Kidney Foundation in Memory of Jay Hayes, Red Hawks Rumble Coaches v. Cancer American Heart Walk,  Making Strides Against Breast Cancer, Troy Family YMCA Reach Out For Youth Campaign (Monster Mash Dash 5 K Road Race), Our Lady of Victory CYO Basketball Clinics I & II, Troy Public School 18 Mystery Reader Program,  American Red Cross Blood Mobile, Relay For Life, and Troy Middle School Girls Basketball Clinic, among others.

“My overall message is to be able to reach people lyrically and musically by expressing my relationship with God and how that relationship has affected my life and changed me to be the person that I am today,” Coleman said. “I also want to welcome all people of various cultures and religious backgrounds so that they can understand what I so passionately believe in. Our experiences may be different, but we all feel a need to be connected to something or someone and since music is universal, it’s the best way for me to express myself and relate my experiences.”

To hear songs from Bright Morning Star, go to:

Contact: Jessica Otitigbe
Phone: (518) 276-6050


Reeve Hamilton
Director of Media Relations and Communications

(518) 833-4277

For general inquiries:

About Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Founded in 1824, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is America’s first technological research university. Rensselaer encompasses five schools, 32 research centers, more than 145 academic programs, and a dynamic community made up of more than 7,900 students and more than 100,000 living alumni. Rensselaer faculty and alumni include more than 145 National Academy members, six members of the National Inventors Hall of Fame, six National Medal of Technology winners, five National Medal of Science winners, and a Nobel Prize winner in Physics. With nearly 200 years of experience advancing scientific and technological knowledge, Rensselaer remains focused on addressing global challenges with a spirit of ingenuity and collaboration.