“Shenandoah is an amazing school with wonderfully supportive faculty members,” said Mary Frances Ahern Coleman ’09, ’15. “They have state-of-the-art resources, and offer exceptional opportunities to study, perform and research.”
Coleman attended Shenandoah University because of its fabulous reputation, and because the university gave her the opportunity to work on her degrees in the summer. During her time at the university, Coleman gave numerous solo recitals and award-winning performances through the National Association of Teachers of Singing. She has also studied many roles including Gilda in Verdi’s “Rigoletto,” Anna in Verdi’s “Falstaff” and Suzel in Mascagni’s “L’Amico Fritz.” She sang the role of Mrs. Fiorentino in Shenandoah Opera Theatre’s production of “Street Scene” as well.
“Shenandoah is on the cutting edge of voice studies,” said Coleman. “They are open to all styles of music, allowing me to experience and develop my voice in a multitude of genres, as well as gain knowledge in vocal pedagogy of all styles.”
Coleman has sung with the Richmond Symphony, Virginia Opera, Aurora Opera, Capitol Opera Raleigh, The Washington Chorus, the National Symphony Orchestra at The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra at Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall in Baltimore, Maryland.
Coleman is now an associate professor of music industry and director of voice and choral activities at Francis Marion University in Florence, South Carolina. She is also currently producing and touring with The Emerald Empire Band, and is a guest soprano soloist at Central United Methodist Church and First Presbyterian. Before her position at Francis Marion, Coleman ran a successful voice studio for seven years, Songbird’s Studio, where she taught 30 to 40 students weekly.
Some of Coleman’s most rewarding experiences in her career are being a founding artistic director of the opera company, Capitol Opera Richmond, helping with Capitol Opera Richmond’s classical music outreach program, touring in a rock band, recording three albums, performing living composers’ works and earning her doctorate in vocal performance from Shenandoah.
Coleman’s advice to students is: “Don’t give up…ever. The life of a musician is not easy, but if it gets you up and puts you to sleep everyday, follow it! It will pay off in the end. ”