Susan Shirel acts as Spring Sing vocal coach for the hosts and hostesses, ensemble and mic stand singers. At Harding, she directs the singing group Belle Canto, teaches many classes including private voice lessons and is the coordinator in charge of music education. This is her third year working with Spring Sing.
“It goes back to the roots of Harding,” Shirel said. “We like to say ‘At Harding, we sing.'”
Stacey Neely has also been working as a vocal coach with Spring Sing this year and she will fully take over the position next year. Normally she teaches private voice lessons at Harding and at several schools here in Searcy.
“I think the basic purpose of a vocal coach besides just teaching music is to get these young people through the process with healthy voices,” Neely said. “This is a new experience for a lot of them and this is a lot of performance time and a lot of singing, hours upon hours. Our job is to basically help them use their voices correctly so they can get through it without doing any damage.”
First year Pharmacy student Hannah Wright is a part of the Spring Sing ensemble and has worked with Shirel as her vocal coach. “Every Wednesday night, we have music rehearsal with Mrs. Shirel,” Wright said. “Now that it’s getting closer to Spring Sing, she’ll show up to our normal rehearsals at the Benson and be there to coach us.”
“She’s a huge part of our show,” Wright said. “Without her it would be just Spring and no Sing.”
Senior ensemble member Tyler Skinner also has experience with Shirel as his vocal coach. “She’s not only working with us during the two hours we see her on Wednesday nights,” Skinner said. “That’s the only time we see her, but she’s doing a ton of work behind the scenes. She’s one of the people that you may not hear about as much but she definitely puts in a lot of work.”
Junior Thomas Williams will also be performing as part of the ensemble. “Mrs. Shirel runs a tight ship,” Williams said. “There are 20-30 people in this one room and most of us are pretty rambunctious. She’ll joke around with us a little bit but she makes sure that we get the job done.”
“From the very beginning, she was very supportive and encouraged me to do things,” Williams said. “She encourages you to do things but she also makes sure that you can do them. She won’t push you beyond your limits.”
“I’m an alumnus of Harding,” Shirel said. “I remember coming to see the show when my older brother was in it and I remember being in the show. It’s an honor and a privilege to get to be on the production side of it and continue the tradition. I’m grateful for the opportunity to be involved.”