Manhattan Magazine - Summer & Fall 2023

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Summer & Fall Events

SUMMER/FALL 2023

Plus

New Riley County Historical Museum director finds her way to the Midwest

Yoga teacher and music instructor uses career passions to help others

A chat with Kansas Poet Laureate Traci Brimhall

Happy Hippie Studios

Healthy food options head to the ‘Ville

CREATING CONFIDENCE IN RETIREMENT Noelle Uhler Licensed Advisor Mike Litke Licensed Advisor Ken Hanson Licensed Advisor Doug Nyman Licensed Advisor Bob Legault Licensed Advisor Understanding Medicare Insurance Can Be Overwhelming, But It Doesn’t Have To Be! Let our professional advisor help you learn exactly what you need and then find the right products to fit your situation. Capper’s Insurance Service works with 17 major insurance providers to customize a plan and a rate that’s right for you. Jordan Moubry Licensed Advisor Dean DeVore Licensed Advisor Tina Scheuermann Service | Support Team Sandy Flowers Business Manager We’re here to help. Call 800-678-7741. www.CappersInsurance.com SERVING RURAL AMERICA SINCE 1932 Medicare Supplement Plans Medicare Advantage Plans Long-Term and Short-Term Care Insurance Accident/Disability Insurance Annuities and Life Insurance Prescription Drug Plans Critical Care Conditions Insurance Dental, Vision, and Hearing Insurance Ed Greenblatt Licensed Advisor Bret DeJeet Licensed Advisor Chelle McCaskill Licensed Advisor Amy Milstein Licensed Advisor Diana Zagiel Licensed Advisor Brittanie Simon Licensed Advisor Michelle Hagler Licensed Advisor

SUMMER/FALL 2023

EDITOR

Kalli Jo Smith

ART DIRECTOR/ DESIGNER

Alex Tatro

COPY EDITOR

Leslie Clugston Andres

ADVERTISING AND MARKETING

Angie Taylor | (785) 832-7236 ataylor@sunflowerpub.com

CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS

Michael Henry

Dave Mayes

Amy Meng

Tommy Theis

CONTRIBUTING WRITERS

Debbie Leckron Miller

Bethaney Phillips

Lucas Shivers

PUBLISHER

Bill Uhler

DIRECTOR

Bob Cucciniello

SUBSCRIPTIONS

$25 (tax included) for a one-year subscription to Manhattan Magazine

CONTACT US

Manhattan Magazine

1503 SW 42nd St | Topeka, KS 66609 (800) 578-8748 | Fax (785) 843-1922

Or email comments to manhattanmagazine@sunflowerpub.com

Manhattan Magazine is a publication of Sunflower Publishing, a division of Ogden Publications, Inc. sunflowerpub.com

Welcome to the summer and fall 2023 edition of ManhattanMagazine

As some of our readers have noticed, this beloved publication, having gone from printing quarterly each year to now biannually, has felt the effects of the pandemic. Though this reality has hit a large part of the publishing world, the quality of our content and the connections our contributors continue to make, show signs of consistent growth.

In this issue, we focus on the curators of our community, such as our feature about Heather McCornack, who has dedicated her career to healing and strengthening others around her. A similar sentiment echoes through the pages of this issue as we chat with new business owners bringing healthy eating to Aggieville, Riley County Historical Museum’s new director and curator Katharine Hensler, and this year’s Kansas Poet Laureate Traci Brimhall.

I’m proud to present you with an issue that focuses on strong women who have dedicated their lives to nurturing this community. I hope to continue telling stories like these with each passing issue.

See you in a few months, MHK.

Heather McCornack teaches voice lessons in her Manhattan home.
welcome.
the best, —KALLI, EDITOR Summer/Fall 2023 / 3
MAG
All
manhattan
a look inside. ON THE COVER
Erin Hammel, owner of Happy Hippie Studios, sits in her recently opened smoothie shop—the second location in her smoothie franchise.
Happy
Studios New Riley County way to the Midwest Healthy food options Plus Yoga teacher and music instructor uses career passions to help others & Fall Events 06 MEET KATHARINE HENSLER New director of Riley County Historical Museum reflects on life that led to Midwest 10 TRACI BRIMHALL Kansas Poet Laureate discusses life passions that led her to the Little Apple 14 HAPPY HIPPIES HEAD TO THE ‘VILLE Quick, healthy and fresh food options take over MHK 22 HEATHER MCCORNACK A ‘Loving, Spirited and Fiery Soul’ 28 SUMMER & FALL HAPPENINGS Summer and fall events are back 4 / Summer/Fall 2023 manhattan MAG
Photo by Dave Mayes. Hippie

Michael Henry

Michael Henry has been a professional photographer since 1961, when the Associated Press paid 13-year-old Michael $15 for a photo. The Fort Scott native spent years in the Southwest as a fine art photographer before returning to Kansas in 2013. michaelhenryphotography.com

Dave Mayes

Abilene native Dave Mayes has worked in newsrooms across Kansas and California and has photographed the K-State and Manhattan community, both as the university’s official photographer and as an independent artist for many years. davidmayesphotography.com

Amy Meng

Amy Meng is a professional Manhattan-based photographer who captures images that highlight everyday beauty. She enjoys the opportunity photography provides to slow down and get curious. As a Click Pro member, Meng elevates the voice of female photography. amymengphotography.com

Debbie Leckron Miller

A published writer since her college years, Debbie Leckron Miller has spent her career writing about her home state. Her inspiration comes from the sweeping Flint Hills prairie, where she lives.

Bethaney Phillips

Kansas native Bethaney Phillips has written professionally for 11 years. She specializes in lifestyle and history features. She writes for WeAretheMighty and has appeared in Task&Purpose,Business Alabama and Military.com.

Lucas Shivers

From his days in elementary school, Lucas Shivers has always loved stories. He finds joy in gardening, asking questions and sharing time with friends and family. He also appreciates biking and hiking in the spectacular Flint Hills.

contributors.
manhattan MAG Summer/Fall 2023 / 5

MEET KATHARINE HENSLER

New director of Riley County Historical Museum reflects on life that led to Midwest

Katharine Hensler, the new director and curator of the Riley County Historical Museum, brings professional excellence to the new position after gathering experiences from coast to coast.

“We want people to know our collective community history,” Hensler says. “Our museum is for everyone as a community center [and is meant] to be a safe, fun and engaging place.”

Her story and journey reflects the resilience of multiple learning experiences and adventures.

Restorative repairs

Hensler grew up in central Pennsylvania near a town called Jersey Shore, originally established in 1826 before the more popular beach town, about two hours north of the state capital in a small community full of early American history.

“I had no choice but to learn history at an early age,” Hensler says. “My parents owned a historic home built in 1901. Initially, it was a dump with broken furnaces and bees in the walls, which woke the whole family up at 2 a.m. by stinging us all.”

Hensler’s dad, Sam, worked as a carpenter before moving into the civil engineering field.

“We were put to work and learned how to restore [the historic home] all hands on,” Hensler says. “I loved the attic most because it was the only part with the ‘bones’ of the house still exposed, and it was where we stored our family history, books and old things.”

As a teenager, she continued her fascination with restoration and sourcing historic items.

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Immersive learning

Hensler’s mom, Kari, is an early childhood educator focused on history and English, thus helping Hensler create a memorable and positive school experience.

“I started at a Christian school and then was homeschooled until my senior year when I returned and finished at Walnut Street Christian School,” Hensler says. “I never would have fostered my love for history without experiences of field trips around the public land of Pennsylvania. There’s a deep legacy of sharing land with people.”

Her favorite spot was Sproul State Forest, locally known as the Black Forest, which was originally named after German immigrants who settled in the area.

With her siblings and friends, she spent her youth exploring thousands of acres of century-old trees and hundreds of miles of trails.

“The forest is part of the Pennsylvania Wilds now, and it’s awesome,” Hensler says. “Back in the 1980s, we didn’t have any money because of restoring the house. So that’s what we did with parents who had a love for history and the outdoors.”

With much time committed to storytelling during their outdoor adventures, the family created a learning culture as they hiked.

“We’d read the local legends and stories,” she says. “Our imaginations went wild in the best ways. We learned to get in touch with stories connected to the land and real people.”

Practical learning adventures

Hensler attended Lock Haven University, a small public college in north-central Pennsylvania. She took a studio art class with a heavy focus on art history.

“This is where I fell in love with the museum world with the creativity to tell the best stories,” Hensler says. “Art helped show how to do it all with a curatorial and history focus.”

After college, she took an internship organizing photography collections at the Clinton County Historical Society, a small local museum.

“I took on the role of the curator of collections, having to leave my actual graduation ceremony early because that was the only time for the board to interview and get it all set up,” Hensler says.

Hensler reflects that one of the best ways for someone to start out is by learning to do it all, from helping patrons with family research to cleaning the toilets.

“It’s humbling work,” she says. “I worked with preservation teams to watch the transformation happen to our buildings and grounds [in order to] resurrect heritage, bring back these places to life, and survive for another generation. I saw how preservation can bring the community together.”

UPCOMING EVENTS

Fireside Chat with the Museum

May 9 | Flight Crew Coffee

Melanie Highsmith and Katharine Hensler discuss “Cracking into a 126 Year Old Case.” rileychs.com/calendar_detail.cfm?Event=318

RCHS Quarterly Meeting

June 20 | Manhattan Public Library

Marla Day presents “Sunbonnets and Calico: Clothing Kansas Frontier.” No reservations required. Light refreshments offered. rileychs.com/calendar_detail.cfm?Event=319

History and Genealogy Fair

August 19 | Pottorf Hall, CiCo Park

This event is a collaboration between the Riley County Genealogical Society, the Riley County Historical Society & Museum, and the Manhattan/Riley County Preservation Alliance. Vendors, exhibit booths, research projects, presentations, workshops and a kids corner will all be part of this event. rileycgs.com

Executive level

Rather than spending time alone cataloging artifacts, she found that she enjoyed getting in front of people and sharing stories.

“I wanted to be more of a public face,” Hensler says. “I threw my resume out into the world and knew I could explore anything to grow in the field. An opportunity came up in Scottsdale, Arizona, at the Mayo Clinic, which wanted to plan a new museum.”

With the goal of documenting the history of the Mayo family in Arizona, Hensler set up their archive and collections with oral histories.

“It was so neat for an organization to save history for future generations to provide the best care for others,” Hensler says. “I loved it but missed the east coast and property work.”

Next, she applied to Goucher College in Baltimore, Maryland, to earn a master of arts degree in historical preservation.

Summer/Fall 2023 / 7 manhattan MAG

She also moved to Raleigh, North Carolina, but worked in Hillsborough as executive director of Burwell School Historic Site for three years. She oversaw staff, created fundraising opportunities, and set up programming and tours to connect with the community for connections to the arts, humanities and history.

“I love to see how we can all work together in a manner to promote understanding and consideration of citizens’ needs and practically of how the government works. We can help everyone move forward with great relationships.”

After years of a three-hour commute, it became hard for Hensler to balance full-time work and grad school. Needing a change, she moved into family care and national-level fundraising with the Muscular Dystrophy Association office in Raleigh.

“For four years, I loved it and saw how human beings are so resilient, strong and finding the best opportunities with empathy,” Hensler says. “I wouldn’t be the person I could be without that understanding of how to take the ‘self’ out of my career.”

The ‘mushy’ part

In 2013, she met a soldier, Craig Neill, who was stationed at Ft. Bragg in North Carolina. He was serving in two consecutive Afghanistan deployments when she opened an online message showing he was overseas. Starting their relationship, they sent messages back and forth without any pressure.

“After coming back stateside, one of the first times we met was when I volunteered as a therapeutic horse riding instructor, and he came to also help with the class as an extra set of hands,” Hensler says. “It was right then that I knew I needed him in my life.”

Soon enough he was transitioned to a base near Tacoma, Washington.

“I followed him due to an engagement ring he put on my finger and later marriage,” Hensler says. “I took a museum position at the Harbor History Museum in Gig Harbor across from the famous Tacoma Narrows Bridge, known as the Galloping Gertie, which famously fell in the 1950s.”

Finding their way to Kansas

Then, the military assigned them to Kansas.

“Kansas was a place we didn’t know we needed to go,” she reflects.

In 2017, the Hensler-Neill family found a home in Manhattan. They started meeting people and enjoyed the nice weather and friendly people.

“I worked at the Flint Hills Discovery Center with Susan Adams and the greatest, most fabulous team to share about the community and prairie,” she says.

In 2019, Craig was ordered a permanent change of station to El Paso, Texas, at Ft. Bliss. With an immediate deployment to Poland for Craig, Hensler moved back to Manhattan from El Paso to work with a contracted service of historical property and assets on Ft. Riley. The two began a process known as “geo-baching”—an act when a military family decides to separate, leaving the spouse in one location and service member in another.

“For about three years, we geo-bached with Craig in Texas, [Poland] and then Korea before negotiating to come back to Ft. Riley,” Hensler says. “In November 2022, we finally got to be back together in the same home. Now, he works in contracts and acquisitions.”

Making things more permanent

After being in Manhattan for years, Hensler served on the historical museum board when Cheryl Collins, the beloved director since 1988, unexpectedly passed away.

Several people encouraged Hensler to apply for the director role when it came open.

“I was on the edge when I applied because I realized that I really missed museums,” Hensler says. “I’m so glad I did. I’m so pleased that I get to meet the most interesting people everyday to continue learning about our collective history.”

“We have an awesome team and sites,” she says. “The sites are the living and breathing touchable artifacts without boundaries to get into the buildings and actively work to see to life in those areas of changes and renewal.”

Hensler also appreciates the region’s integral role in the development of the nation through the Bleeding Kansas era and passionate statehood struggles.

“I have a sense of pride in Kansas’ free-state legacy to protect human and civil rights,” Hensler says. “Not everything was perfect or correct, but we have dedicated our lives to history to show the importance of giving perspective. We can help people be more perceptive and think about things differently to be more considerate to others.”

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10 / Summer/Fall 2023 manhattan MAG

TRACI BRIMHALL

Kansas Poet Laureate on finding her way in literature and life

Currently the professor of poetry in the department of English at Kansas State University, Traci Brimhall was born in Minnesota and moved around the US ten times before becoming a Kansan—the place she has lived the longest.

“I’m a Kansan. It feels a little strange to be rooted on the prairie but feels so nice to finally have a home,” Brimhall says. “Among all of those moves, I loved to write poems and stories and liked my language arts classes in school.”

Growing up with a single mom, Brimhall studied English at Florida State University thanks to a Bright Futures scholarship from state lottery funds that allowed her to follow her dreams and graduate without debt.

“I never doubted that I was loved, and it was such a gift my mom gave me,” Brimhall says. “She did not wait to live later but rather seized each moment, traveled, and embraced pursuing happiness. She always said, ‘money is for friends, family and happiness.’ My mom had a talent for joy.”

In college, her introduction to poetry teacher, Ginny Grimsley, pulled her away from writing fiction.

“We hung out at the picnic tables outside of the library to read poetry out loud, and it felt like a whole bunch of atoms in my body woke up,” Brimhall says. “I felt less alone. Poetry brings aliveness and art of attention. Rather than worry and live too far into the future, poetry reminds us to be in the present.”

Always an adventure

Out of college, she got her first real job at the American Shakespeare Center in Staunton, Virginia, after hiking 500 miles on the Appalachian Trail.

“I just never stop adventuring and always do something kind of absurd,” Brimhall says. “Some of the best lessons are when I get a sense of envy that I want to do something too. I’m not mad at others, but it’s my heart’s way of letting me know I want to get there too. Jealousy can be a great teacher to get what we want.”

With a long-term partner, pet and dream arts job, Brimhall early on built a whole life that checked all of the boxes.

“One night, I remember walking home after a theater show and felt rain on my skin, but I couldn’t remember the last time I felt the rain or anything—like I was sleepwalking through life rather than being awake and alive like I wanted to be,” she says. “I want to love the life I’m living, not just have a life that looks pretty in a picture.”

Listening to and reading author Joseph Campbell, she took the advice to “follow her bliss.”

“The privilege of a lifetime is to be who you are,” Brimhall says. “I wanted to live deeply and follow my passions. I moved to New York and called myself a poet. I’ve been in love with life and writing poems ever since.”

Summer/Fall 2023 / 11 manhattan MAG

Professor mom

After attending graduate school at Sarah Lawrence, north of New York, and then Western Michigan University, Brimhall applied to be a professor at KSU in 2014.

“It was hard in the first years,” Brimhall says. “My baby was born right at the end of grad school. I nursed as I filled out job applications and finished it all. KSU was the only campus that invited me to bring my son. Everyone was so welcoming.”

Starting as both a mom and professor, Brimhall juggled both allconsuming areas by finding balance.

“I couldn’t worry about not getting published enough or about whether my son was hitting the right developmental milestones at exactly the right moment,” Brimhall says. “I gave both everything I could, and I enjoyed both by worrying less.”

Currently a third grader, her son, Elliot, enjoys tagging along to poetry events to see new places and experiences.

“He’s the best,” Brimhall says. “We share adventures and both enjoy getting to meet new people together. He’s a great road trip buddy. He always gives me a very honest review on how I do. Honest feedback is okay, but we are working on balancing it out with a compliment.”

Zeno, their dog, teaches that even with a silly face, you can still be loved completely.

Becoming the poet laureate

Gov. Laura Kelly and the Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission announced Brimhall as the 2023–2026 poet laureate of Kansas.

“Supporting and celebrating poetry is essential to preserving our state’s rich history for future

generations,” Kelly said. “That’s why I’m glad Traci will be our Kansas poet laureate. Her passion and introspection make her the perfect advocate for poetry and the arts.”

Brimhall conducts public readings, workshops, lectures and presentations to focus on connecting with Kansans through the shared experience of language, Kansas’ agricultural roots and food.

“I get to be an arts ambassador. Since KSU is a land grant university, I can collaborate around topics like food instability, agriculture practices and many communities,” Brimhall says. “At events, we ask participants to bring canned food to share with blessing boxes and local food banks to connect resources. Since the arts matter, I want to accomplish social good by pairing it with elements to bring nourishment to the creative side as well as literally the physical side.”

The New Yorker, Ploughshares and Best American Poetry frequently feature Brimhall’s work. After her 2020 publication titled Come the Slumberless to the Land of Nod, her new book will be Love Prodigal coming in 2024.

“Just like the biblical story of the prodigal son returning home, my next book is about all the ways that life asks us to start over, from the pandemic to death and divorce. It all costs us so much emotionally,” Brimhall says. “And yet we are still so lucky to find a new way to be in the world.”

Sharing countless lessons, Brimhall delivers readings, young writer workshops, international workshops and even college commencements around themes of Mary Oliver’s “The Summer’s Day”: “What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

12 / Summer/Fall 2023 manhattan MAG
Brimhall’s newest book, Love Prodigal,
to release in 2024
on the
manhattan MAG Summer/Fall 2023 / 13
is set
and will focus
ways life asks us to start over.
14 / Summer/Fall 2023

HappyHippies Head to the ‘Ville

Quick, healthy and fresh food options take over MHK

The hippies are coming to town, and they’re bringing plenty of tasty ingredients with them.

Open since May 1 in the former Public Hall building on Moro Street in Aggieville (and a second location for owner Erin Hammel), Happy Hippie Studios is a hot stop for smoothies, acai bowls, and a fill-and-go (or fill-and-stay) salad bar. All are healthy options made with natural ingredients, plenty of fruit, and often topped with surprising ingredients, like local pollen, greens and dried berries.

Even though these bowls are a healthy way to snack, more often than not the consistencies of the smoothies are compared to milkshakes or desserts in general.

“You really wouldn’t think they were healthy,” Hammel says.

Eventually it’s her goal to add more menu options, including sandwiches and soups.

“I want to make sure we open up the right way and don’t implode on people,” she notes.

Prior to opening, staff trained for weeks, studying menu items, blender techniques, and working on the point-of-sales system to plan for an opening that’s as smooth as possible— just like their blends.

Summer/Fall 2023 / 15
Happy Hippie store owner and smoothie master, Erin Hammel, in her newly opened smoothie shop in Aggieville.

The location will also offer acai bowls (a smoothie you eat with a spoon) topped with fresh fruit, granola and more. Themed salad bars will rotate weekly, including superfood choices and cuisines such as Italian, Mexican, and Greek.

Meanwhile, gluten-free and protein-rich baked goods are occasionally on the counter.

“It’s the same kind of vibe we have [at our flagship shop] in Clay Center,” Hammel says. “Right next to the yoga studio. It’s the most ideal location in Manhattan.”

Though Hammel herself owns a yoga studio (and is a certified instructor), the Aggieville location will pair with Orange Sky, a yoga, barre and spin class studio, which has been in its current location since 2017.

“Everyone seems super excited. I feel like there’s nothing like this at all in Manhattan. That’s why I was hoping for this opportunity. There’s a huge market for healthier food options,” she says.

Hammel, a franchise-owner at just 22, isn’t afraid to work hard. She’s been traveling to the Manhattan store daily to get things ready, working at the Clay Center store and

16 / Summer/Fall 2023
Top: The Aggieville location will offer acai bowls topped with fresh fruit, granola and more. All snacks are topped with natural ingredients including fresh fruit, local pollen, green, berries and more.
Summer/Fall 2023 / 17
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NEW HERE?

HERE’S WHAT SMOOTHIE EXPERT ERIN HAMMEL SUGGESTS …

SMOOTHIE

Get the Midwest, Erin says. It’s super fruity and refreshing. Blend it with OJ on a summer day, or go with milk for a creamier option.

What’s in it?

Strawberry, banana, peach, mango, yogurt and local honey.

BOWL

The PB&J bowl is flat-out hard to beat, she says. “We are peanut butter fanatics, so it depends on your palate, but it’s definitely a crowd favorite.”

What’s in it?

A base of acai, strawberry, banana, peanut butter, topped with homemade granola, local honey, peanut butter drizzle and coconut shreds.

Be on the lookout for key summer menu items:

Tropical Lemonade Smoothie

What’s in it?

Frozen lemonade, strawberries, mango, pure lemon (no sugar), pineapple, and blended with orange juice, skim, or almond milk.

Summer Bowl

What’s in it?

A fresh take on pineapple, blueberries, and other seasonal fresh fruits. Check store signage for full ingredient options for updates to this bowl.

Freedom Bowl or Smoothie

(Note: Only available the week of July 4.)

What’s in it?

Strawberry and/or banana base, blue spirulina, topped with strawberries, banana, blueberries, honey, coconut and granola.

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HOURS

Monday–Saturday: 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

(Sunday hours pending, visit their Happy Hippie Facebook page for updates.)

teaching daily yoga classes. And if that’s not enough, she’s also planning her summer wedding.

It’s a far cry from where she began, making smoothies for the local farmers market at just 18 years old in Clay Center. The Friday before, she would blend smoothies, freeze them, and wake up in the middle of the night to let them thaw. She then donated the money, not wanting to obtain a food license.

“I just kept doing it. It started out as a hobby and I didn’t want to stop,” she says.

Hammel’s sister, Marcy, will manage the Aggieville location, with Erin helping at both locations.

“It’s a lot bigger of a market,” Erin says. “I’m excited to be able to offer people quick, healthy, and fresh food options.”

As for the decision to move into Aggieville, it was a dream of Erin’s, but one she thought wouldn’t come true for years.

“It was definitely meant to be. I walked around three times a day, praying for the opportunity to come up whenever it was time. And then I was contacted by the owners. It was clear what I was supposed to do,” she says.

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Top: Hammel mixes up her favorite fresh fruit ingredients for a healthy snack.
909 S. Seth Child Rd. • Manhattan 785-539-0191 We are proud to be one of the 15% of AAHA-Accredited hospitals in the United State and Canada.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY Amy Meng
22 / Summer/Fall 2023
Heather McCornack creates a safe haven for her music students in her Manhattan home. manhattan MAG manhattan MAG

Heather McCornack

A ‘Loving, Spirited and Fiery Soul’

How she uses music and yoga to strengthen others

Ask Heather McCornack about her career, and there’s a long, thoughtful pause.

“When people ask what I do, I always hesitate and think, ‘where do I start?’” So, eventually, she simply summarizes, “Like most artists, we tend to do a lot of things.”

Not that this multifaceted Manhattan artist doesn’t have a mapped-out path of success. It’s just hard to categorize her many niches as an accomplished vocal teacher and coach, yoga instructor for trauma and eating disorder recovery and chair yoga for senior citizens, music director at the Manhattan Arts Center and accompanist for the Flint Hills Children’s Choir.

A native of Winona, Minnesota, McCornack earned her vocal music degree at the University of WisconsinEau Claire and performed in musical theater throughout her early career. She and her husband, Brian, moved to Manhattan in 2008, where Brian chairs the Department of Entomology at Kansas State University. Although busy raising three young boys, McCornack went back to school at age 40 and earned her master’s degree in voice at Kansas State University and also started performing again.

“I had been singing since I was little and practiced yoga most of my adult life,” she explains about her dual passions. “The two of them didn’t really come together in a tangible way until I worked on my master’s. As I was studying the singing voice, I was studying yoga at the same time, and it made sense to marry the two.”

She first focused on the technical angle of how yoga helps the way people sing.

“That turned into how the spiritual practice of yoga can help us as singers, artists and creative people,” McCornack says. “Once I started working on yoga with singers, I knew I also wanted to get specialized training in yoga to assist people whose needs were not being met in the yoga studio—people recovering from trauma and eating disorders.”

She took additional yoga training, completed certifications during the pandemic, and now teaches a full complement of voice and yoga sessions (in groups or one-on-one) through her Body Breath Voice practice. Vocalist options include yoga for

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McCornack demonstrates yoga movements to Meadowlark residents that stretch specific muscles to help with balance and mobility.

singers, voice lessons for classical and musical theater training and voice coaching for singers preparing for an audition or performance.

Sophia Evangelidis, a 2023 graduate of Manhattan High School, has been a student of McCornack’s since third grade, first taking piano lessons, then voice instruction. “Heather opened the door to performing arts that I didn’t know existed...”

Evangelidis says. “She has helped me through countless college and out-of-state summer programs, and district and state auditions. Her coaching is to the point, exact and specific to your voice. She has truly sculpted my voice.”

Evangelidis’ training for college musical theater auditions paid off. She was accepted into the University of Alabama at Birmingham to study musical theater this fall.

McCornack savors those successes.

“I love teaching voice and working on beautiful art songs and musical theater with students,” she says. “It’s exciting to witness the way students come alive when they sing something they love and discover new parts of their voice. For me, teaching voice is giving people space to be heard.”

Her own performance career, and the anxiety, depression and stress that went with it, led her down the yoga path.

“My experience in musical theater was exciting and fun—and also incredibly stressful. I found myself with an eating disorder and periods of depression and anxiety that were always part of my career,” she explains. “As I worked through this, it became obvious that these issues were not an uncommon occurrence in performers, and they needed to be addressed. Performing should be exhilarating and joyful, and it’s sad if someone is missing out on that component.”

Top: McCornack leads chair yoga at Meadowlark Hills retirement community. The class is also open to non-Meadowlark residents.
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Bottom: McCornack helps students overcome performance anxiety in her Manhattan home turned music studio.

Her Trauma Sensitive Yoga classes support people recovering from trauma. These gentle sessions move slowly and offer a comforting space where students can practice movement and breathe at their own pace in a way that feels safe to them.

Similarly, Yoga for Eating Disorder Recovery is a slow yoga practice that teaches people to become aware of their own internal and external feelings.

“It can help people in recovery remember how to feel at home in their own bodies again and, over time, experience the fullness of human emotions,” McCornack says.

Providing people this time on their mats, their “cease-fire zone” she calls it, is an opportunity to pause the negative self talk and spiraling thoughts.

“It’s rewarding to see people recognize what feels good and what doesn’t and make choices to support that. That is healing and empowering for people in recovery,” she says. “I remind students that I am not here as your teacher but as a guide to offer options and support your choices. Your time on your mat is to do what feels good to you. If you choose to rest for 60 minutes and not do what the rest are doing, I celebrate that.”

Trained in accessible yoga, McCornack also leads chair yoga at Manhattan’s Meadowlark Hills retirement community.

“It’s my two favorite hours of the week,” she says. “They’re the most delightful group of people.”

She explains the workout, which is also open to nonMeadowlark residents.

“We take all the postures that we would do standing, and do variations in a chair.”

Meadowlark residents John and Patsy Henderson are faithful participants.

“Many of us are not able to do yoga in the conventional ways. Heather has modified it and taught us so many poses that we can do in our chairs,” Patsy says. “She demonstrates how to do movements that stretch specific muscles, which helps us with balance and mobility.”

John has Parkinson’s disease and says the yoga class benefits him more than any other exercise, both physically and mentally.

“Heather is always so happy and genuinely cares about us,” Patsy adds. “She is able to calm and relax us all so much that, at the end of class, we don’t want to leave.”

Long-time vocal student Evangelidis echoes Patsy’s heartfelt sentiment for McCornack’s methods.

“Heather has become my second mom throughout the years and is someone I can come to when I need any kind of advice. She is not afraid to stand up for what she believes in or to even stand up for me,” Evangelidis says. “Heather is a loving, spirited and fiery soul that anyone would be lucky to have in their corner.”

Summer & Fall Happenings

JUNE

Wine in the Wild

June 3 | Sunset Zoo

Join Sunset Zoo this summer for Wine in the Wild. Guests will sip on unique blends and indulge in hors d’oeuvres while taking a stroll through the zoo’s trails. sunsetzoo.com/135/Wine-in-the-Wild

Taste of the Ville

June 3 | Aggieville Business District

Take a flavor tour through the Little Apple and enjoy local eats from over 20 Aggieville restaurants. aggieville.org/events

MHK Juneteenth

June 15–19 | Various locations

Come celebrate Black history and heritage at the annual MHK Juneteenth festival. manhattanjuneteenth.org

JULY

Kids Studio

July 15 | Midwest Dream Car Collection

Children ages 5–10 are invited for a morning of arts and crafts. This year, the program will learn about stingrays with a Corvette Stingray-inspired project. midwestdreamcarcollection.org/event-calendar

Riley County Fair

July 27–31| Riley County Fairgrounds

’Tis the season! Enjoy the annual Riley County Fair with a variety of events including the Kaw Valley Rodeo, livestock shows and a nightly carnival. rileycountyfair.com/

Annual Iris Sale

July 29 | K-State Gardens

The Flint Hills Iris Society presents the Annual Iris Sale. Come shop a large selection of locally grown, awardwinning varieties. flinthillsirissociety.com/events

AUGUST

Live Music

Recurring on Fridays | Flight Crew Coffee

Enjoy a comfortable cup of coffee and listen to a variety of local artists every Friday at 7 p.m. flightcrewcoffee.com/ife

Pet Poolooza

August 19 | Manhattan City Park

Grab your pups and head to the City Park Waterpark to cool off with a dip in the pool. mhkprd.com/554/Pet-Poolooza

SEPTEMBER

Slug “Run”

September 16 | Parking lot behind Midwest Dream Car Collection

Gamma Omicron of Epsilon Sigma

Alpha presents the 0.5K Slug Run, 10 a.m. to noon. At just under 1,000 steps, the Slug Run trail welcomes people of all abilities to participate and support St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. manhattancvb.org/event/0-5k-slug-run/2092

OCTOBER

Flint Hills Beer Fest

October 7 | Blue Earth Plaza

Stop by for an afternoon of samples from a variety of brews and good eats. This event supports Good Shepherd Homecare & Hospice, Manhattan’s only local, nonprofit hospice. goodshepherdhh.org/our-events/flint-hills-beer-fest

OZtoberFEST

October 7 | Downtown Wamego

Next stop: Oz! Hop on Highway 24 and be immersed into the world of the Wizard. Participate in the Oz Costume Contest, or bring your pup to cash in on a Toto looka-like prize. Enjoy the variety of “OZsome” activities Wamego has to offer. visitwamego.com/events/oztoberfest-2023

NOVEMBER

Open Hood Sunday

Recurring on Sundays | Midwest Dream Car Collection

November 26 marks the last Open Hood Sunday of the season. Stop by for an upclose look at the museum’s iconic vehicles. midwestdreamcarcollection.org/events/openhood-sunday-2/2023-04-30/

28 / Summer/Fall 2023 manhattan MAG
Photo by Jason Dailey
manhattan MAG Summer/Fall 2023 / 29
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