“Shenandoah is a very big part of who I am today,” said Susan K. Kirkland ’88.
Kirkland chose Shenandoah because she was very impressed with its music therapy program and how much training and knowledge former professor Marian Sung had. She also liked the size of the university, saying that it felt right to her.
“The quality and personalization of my instruction at Shenandoah, particularly my music and music therapy instruction, were exceptional,” said Kirkland. “I also appreciate that the music theory, history, ensemble and pedagogy standards for non-performance majors were as robust as they were for the performance students.”
While at the university, Kirkland enjoyed singing in the Conservatory Choir and Chamber Choirs, attending performances, being a member of Sigma Alpha Iota and the meatball subs from Enrico’s Pizza Shop.
Kirkland is the department head of music education and performing arts for the New Providence School District in New Providence, New Jersey. Before this position, she was a vocal/choral music teacher for New Providence High School for 18 years. In that role, Kirkland directed numerous choral ensembles and taught class voice. She was also the musical director and a producer for the school’s spring musical production for ten years. Kirkland was awarded Teacher of the Year in 2012.
Prior to her time at New Providence, she was a special education teacher for Durham Public Schools in North Carolina. Kirkland was also a singer for the New York City Opera National Company, New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players, DiCapo Opera, Liederkranz Opera, American Opera Projects and Light Opera of New Jersey.
One of her most memorable experiences of her career was being a performer for the New York City Opera National Company on their U.S. tour of La Bohème. Kirkland also has countless rewarding moments from her teaching career, but if she had to pick one, it would be “the moment that happens, sometimes in a lesson-sometimes in a performance, where you as the teacher are witness to your student realizing, in that moment, that they just did more than they ever thought/imagined/hoped they could. It is a sacred moment. To have amassed such a large collection of these sacred moments over my years of teaching has been greatly rewarding and sustaining.”
Kirkland believes that her time at Shenandoah helped her in all aspects of her career after graduation. The music therapy training program prepared her to excel in her first teaching position as a special education teacher, her voice training with former Associate Professor of Voice Philip Sargent led her to many performance opportunities and acceptance into a master’s program and much more.
As a member of the Shenandoah University Alumni Association Board of Directors, she is looking forward to connecting with the board members, other alumni, staff and faculty and prospective students/families.
“Through my participation, I hope to help perpetuate the mission of Shenandoah,” Kirkland. “I also hope to help increase awareness of Shenandoah to both alumni and prospective students.”
She and her husband, Joe Heary ’85, ’88, live in Basking Ridge, New Jersey. “We don’t have any fur babies or kids, unless you count all of my current and former students, in which case, we have close to 1,000,” said Kirkland.