first published in the August 2021 Equiery

By Katherine O. Rizzo

Bel Air resident Allison Redman handed over her Miss Maryland crown to Lydia Sohn of Hanover this past June, in what Redman called “a bitter sweet moment.” Redman, who was the 2020 Miss Maryland winner, said she had “worked so hard to get to this point,” and that she wants to stay involved with the pageant.

Redman is much more than a pageant queen, however. She is also a professional violinist and she volunteers at Normandy Farm’s therapeutic riding program in Baltimore County.

A Horse of Course!
Redman was around eight years old when she first sat on a pony. She got into it because a friend of hers rode. Redman started taking lessons at Dreams End Farm in Harford County and never stopped. Nearly 20 years later, she still finds time for horses.

“As a kid I loved to jump, but then I took a break during college to focus on my studies. When I got back to it, I picked up dressage, riding at a high level on a friend’s horse.”

Redman now owns Sydney, a 20-year-old Thoroughbred-Percheron mare that she boards at Normandy Farm in Street. “Sydney is super calm, and neither of us have shown yet but I’m excited about my first steps into actual competitions with her,” she said.

Therapeutic Riding at Normandy Farm, Inc., was established in 1989 and moved to Normandy Farm in Street in 1992. The program offers lessons to special needs students year-round, and Redman is one of its volunteers. She began volunteering there when she was 15 years old. Redman explained that the program is special to her because she took great satisfaction from helping special needs students. She said it is “such a rewarding feeling being part of their experiences and seeing their faces light up with joy. Just like mine does when I get on my horse.”

Redman teaches lessons at Normandy Farm and also acts as both a side-walker and a horse leader. “Each role is important for the rider, [the] horse, and the experience,” she said, adding that she has been able to watch “the students grow into better horseback riders.” She particularly enjoys “celebrating their successes.”

Becoming Miss Maryland
Growing up in Maryland, Redman said she was aware of the Miss America pageant but did not know anything about the local competitions that led to the national pageant. When she was in seventh grade, she met a Miss Maryland who had come to Redman’s school for a student awards ceremony. “I thought it was kind of cool but didn’t think about doing beauty pageants myself,” she explained.

Redman attended Harford Community College for a time, and while she was there she saw a pamphlet for a local pageant and entered on a whim. “I did not win, but that is what got me to look into local pageants geared towards Miss America,” she said. After competing in at least six pageants and not winning any of them, Redman was ready to throw in the towel and move on. But she decided to give it one last try. “I won that one and went on to Miss Maryland but did not make it into the top ten,” Redman remarked.

Redmand graduated from Towson University with a degree in Music Performance. She went on to Drexel University, where she is working on a Master’s Degree in Human Resources. She competed in pageants the entire time.

“I just got addicted to it,” she said with a laugh, adding that in her second Miss Maryland pageant she did make it into the top ten. The third time she competed, she made it to the third runner up position. Then in 2020, Redman won it all and was crowned Miss Maryland.

“The whole experience was incredible, and I hope other young ladies will just go for it. The Miss Maryland organization promotes scholarship, leadership, and helps with career paths,” she said. “It also helps you figure out what your passions are, and mine is horses.”

Keeping Music Alive
The Miss Maryland pageant requires competitors to demonstrate a talent. Riding is not particular suitable for the pageant stage, so Redman showcased her other passion, music. “I started playing the violin in fourth grade but I really wanted to play the clarinet,” she said with a laugh. “I will never forget it, Mr. Folus, my music teacher, convinced me it was a great idea to play the violin because there were more opportunities for violinists.”

Redman studied with the National Philharmonic’s second violinist, Linda Leanza, and after high school she began playing with the Susquehanna Symphony Orchestra (SSO). Redman was the Concert Master of the Towson University Symphony Orchestra, and won the Towson University Talent Award for her performance of the Mendelssohn Violin Concertos. She performs as a solo artist and as a member of the Susquehanna Symphony Orchestra.

Redman added, “Music has always been an outlet for me to express my creativity and has always given me something to do in my free time.”

Every Miss Maryland must dedicate the duration of her reign to service. Redman dedicated her year of service to music. She used her Miss Maryland scholarship money to start the “Keeping the Music Alive” initiative, which advocates for “keeping musical programs in schools to allow students the opportunity to learn a musical instrument.” She explained that “music programs are the first programs to be cut when it comes to funding, and it is a shame because music programs are so beneficial to the developing student by learning teamwork, creativity in thinking, learning pattern recognition, and keeping students engaged in school.”

In the years to come, Redman plans to expand her initiative to all aspects of arts education.