State Politics

Area musicians to perform before Legislature

MANATEE — Two young musicians from Manatee County have been invited to perform in Tallahassee this morning as part of opening day ceremonies for the Florida Legislature’s 2010 session.

Jennie Moen, 14, of Bradenton, and Maria Wirries, 12, of Myakka City, said Monday they were honored to be on the program at the Capitol.

“I’m really excited. It’s a great opportunity to see the government in action, but also it’s another time for me and Maria to sing together,” said Jennie. “We love to perform.”

Maria said she wasn’t scared to appear before members of the Florida House of Representatives and the Florida Senate because “I have Jennie here with me, and we’re just keeping each other occupied.”

Jennie will sing and play violin and do sign language while Maria will sing.

Among the selections they will perform either separately or together are “America the Beautiful,” “God Bless America,” and a salute to the armed forces, the girls said Monday.

They also will be performing a duet from Irving Berlin’s musical, “White Christmas.”

“They are just very, very thrilled,” said Jennie’s mom, Regina Moen, who accompanied her daughter to Tallahassee for the event.

Last winter, the girls were performing at a gala where state Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton was a guest, said Regina Moen. Impressed by their performance, Bennett made sure the girls received a formal invitation to be on the opening day program, she said.

The musical pair are already polished performers with extensive experience.

Jennie Moen was a cast member of the Manatee Players’ production of “The Wizard of Oz” in 2007, last year was a runner-up in the Veterans of Foreign Wars’ Voice of Democracy contest, and is the youngest performing member of the Sarasota Pops Orchestra.

Maria, who also plays piano, has just finished a performance with the Sarasota Players, has entertained runners at Lakewood Ranch during charity road runs, and is slated to sing the national anthem and the Canadian national anthem later this month at McKechnie Field.

As if that weren’t enough, Jennie was named winner of the 2001-02 Florida Studio Theater Young Playwrights Award, and Maria is a competitive figure skater who trains at the Ellenton ice rink when she is not practicing her music.

Jeaneen Wirries, Maria’s mother, said her daughter tends to think big. “She wants to sing on Broadway and win the Olympics,” she said.

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at (941) 745-7031.