Singer breaks into film
Career started on Chain O’ Lakes
By James Card
A vocalist who spent her childhood summers on the Chain O’ Lakes will be making her acting debut this fall in a Hallmark film titled, “The Message.”
Susan Manion developed her voice singing in the chapel and in talent shows at Camp Cleghorn.
Her experience led her to a singing career that regularly brings her to Nashville from her home in Orland Park, Illinois.
In the film she will play a nurse and she will also sing on the soundtrack.
After recently performing this summer at the Grand Ole Opry and hosting the Inspirational County Music Awards, Manion headed straight to Waupaca – a summer tradition that she keeps every year.
“I just loved it at Camp Cleghorn. The summers up here: swim, canoe, ski. I had the time of my life. There were so many kids. Just tons of us having so much fun,” recalled Manion.
Manion’s aunt went to bible camp on the Chain O’ Lakes and she later brought family members up to Camp Cleghorn and they liked it so much they purchased cottages. Manion’s family purchased a cottage later on – at first they stayed in a camper at Hartman Creek State Park.
Camp Cleghorn started off as a Christian summer camp. It was founded in 1897 and one of its missions was to lecture people about the evils of intoxication and virtuous abstinence from alcohol.
These days it is nonprofit association of 41 cottage owners nestled on Columbia Lake. Members pay dues to cover the cost of shared infrastructure expenses (docks, roads, outdoor lighting, etc) and the camp set aside a 20-acre wilderness area that will remain undeveloped. Services at the chapel are open to the public.
Her big break
Throughout school, Manion sang in choir, musicals and bands. After college at Moraine Valley, a friend directed her to a record label company called Sound Knowledge Studios in Minnesota.
She went to try out but she did not know that the music would be performed by members of Blues Traveler and Hootie and the Blowfish.
“These were big stars. I would have never even tried out. I was really, really young. I was so nervous after they told me that,” said Manion. “They were so nice and they helped me in so many ways.”
The self-titled album that she recorded that day would put her on the Christian Country Top 15 and top 20 Southern Gospel charts. It went nationwide and received radio play. After that she was picked out of 20,000 people for World Idol, a spin-off of American Idol.
She went to Nashville to glad-hand her new CD to the right people. That didn’t work.
She team with an artists-and-repertoire talent agent who helped promote her work and career.
That’s when the Inspirational County Music Awards called.
“That was a big surprise. They liked my music. They heard it on the radio. I presented not knowing I would be giving Ricky Skaggs an award for musician of the year at the Schermerhorn opera house in Nashville, Tennessee. It was jam packed. It was the first time I ever presented. It was like winning a lotto,” she said.
She continued to present at the Inspirational County Music Awards and that led to hosting the Inspirational County Gospel Music Awards. She’s met Stella Parton (Dolly’s sister), Reba McIntyre’s entire family, Danny Gokey, Point of Grace, Guy Penrod, Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood.
In the next year, Manion will be on the Grand Ole Opry and the International Country Gospel Music Awards. She says several TV shows are in the works. Filming for “The Message” will start in late fall or winter and take place in Nashville.
Her music can be found at https://susanmanion.com.