BRISTOL, Va. (WJHL) — John Battle graduate Shannon Dunning has been expressing herself through music since fourth grade.

“That was the first choir opportunity that my school had – and I never stopped,” she said.

She has remained captivated by its beautiful simplicity.

“Even just like an ‘ooh’ or a ‘la’ can, through melody, connect you to someone without ever having to say an English word,” she explained.

It didn’t take long for her to realize that her passions extended into the spotlight after enrolling in a summer program at a local theater.

“I already liked to sing and I liked stories – and then I found that I liked to act them out on stage,” she said.

As she entered John S. Battle High School, the opportunities to sing and act increased.

“I was really looking forward to being able to do that,” she recalled.

She took advantage of nearly every opportunity, and by her senior year, she found another niche in which she thrived.

“I completely choreographed this year’s musical, Freak Friday,” she said. “Then I assisted the choreographer for the past two musicals here.”

Dunning also served as the lead actress in Freaky Friday, which made for a very busy schedule.

“A lot of planning, a lot of organizing, a lot of listening to the music,” she chuckled.

A lot of hard work – made worthwhile by the small successes.

“There’s always fun moments in rehearsal where I think that a dance step is going to be too hard,” she said, “and then I teach it and I turn around and they all have it. That’s just the most amazing feeling.”

She also graduated as the co-editor-in-chief of the school’s creative magazine, The Emerald Inkwell.

“It gives me a chance to look at everybody else’s creativity,” she said. “Just the works that everybody puts in really displays the eloquence of the written word and how well people can express themselves with it.”

Dunning has already begun her first semester at The College of Wooster (OH), looking to study performing arts, or perhaps even something like journalism.

“I’m really grateful I chose a school that has the capability and has the respect for the arts,” she said.