Shenandoah is a place where generations of couples have met and fallen in love, married and started their happily-ever-afters.
But one of the most recent couples to pledge their troth at the university did so in a pretty big, delightful way, complete with a serenade and string quartet. So, we felt we should share their story in honor of Valentine’s Day and all Shenandoah sweethearts, past and present.
Music therapy major Quenton Clarke ’16 of Staunton, Virginia, and Krystal Stevens ’15 of Dickerson, Maryland, met in the fall of 2012, when Clarke was a freshman and she was a junior. Let Quenton explain how they met:
We’re both music therapy majors, so we both attended the SUMTA (Shenandoah U Music Therapy Association) meetings. She attended because she was a chairperson, and I attended a meeting or two to figure out what the heck I was getting into as a music therapy major. Right at the beginning of the semester, there was an announcement about Mr. Shenandoah, and how SUMTA needed a representative. There were also only three guys in the group, one of which had done Mr. Shenandoah the previous year. So I volunteered, just to see what would happen, thinking it would be a fun way to meet people! Little did I know, the first person I met because of it would be my one-day wife. She was actually put in charge of the planning committee for SUMTA’s Mr. Shenandoah (little naive me), and I met her on a Sunday evening in Ruebush 128 for our first meeting (and for the first time). I can picture it perfectly today: she was in lazy clothes, hair tied up, slumped over her laptop in a back corner of the room waiting for the rest of the group to show up so she could wrap up this meeting after a long day. I had just gotten back to campus from home after the weekend (Staunton, my parents drove me), and I was excited to get back to socializing. The first second I saw her and introduced myself to her, I knew she had had a long day (she told me a year later that she was just in a three-or-four-hour-long meeting for another organization that day, and utterly exhausted), and I knew that I needed to make her smile, no matter how goofy I had to be. And I did. Shortly after, we became the best of friends and fell in love (although I was pretty oblivious to that too). We started dating that April of 2013, and I’m thrilled to be able to call her my wife in October of 2016.”
The pair’s engagement was as sweet as their meeting, although Quenton admits that he set the bar high, telling Krystal that his proposal “would be the greatest art project I had ever pulled off.”
So here’s what he set up in Jim Barnett Park, which adjoins the main campus, with the help of a bunch of friends and classmates. In Quenton’s words:
There wasn’t a single thing about the proposal that didn’t have meaning. Jim Barnett Park was the place we first kissed and told each other we loved each other, right on that specific spot. I didn’t have a picnic blanket, so we used a mattress pad the first time, but I decided an actual blanket would look better in pictures for the proposal. Everything else, however, had a lot of meaning. The day, the time, the people involved: the string quintet piece that was played for her was one of our songs we use for relaxation and on dates, and I actually arranged it for the string quintet with one of my groomsmen, Nors Hexum, who played double bass for it during the proposal. The bouquet was made of lilies, which are her favorite flower and also have a lot of meaning for us. The group of men that helped me serenade her afterwards, my Phi Mu Alpha brothers, were the first people outside of herself that I had told I was going to propose soon. The photographers and videographers were some of our close friends too. It’s funny, I can’t remember a specific feeling when she said ‘yes’ except ‘you’re adorable and I am so nervous about everything coming together right now.’ It ended up coming together PERFECTLY, but up to then, I had had at least a month of very anxious planning and contacting over 40 people to help out with this thing. I knew she was going to say yes, because ever since before we even started dating, we’ve been talking about ‘when we’re married’ and naming our children and planning for the future. We already planned to grow old together. The proposal wasn’t about her saying yes or proving to her that I was worthy or anything like that, it was completely and totally about making the biggest, greatest, most personal memory I possibly could for her, for our family, and for all of our friends involved too. It was something worth putting the effort into making as extravagant as possible, while keeping it personal. Our spot in the park was in my head for at least a couple years, because I knew she wouldn’t want something too public, but I also knew it would be fun to have our friends and family involved as best I could while keeping it personal and intimate. It could have been a train wreck and she still would have thought it was perfect.”
So, what was it like to be the recipient of an elaborate public proposal? Let Krystal explain.
Well, there’s actually a running joke now, apparently (and I don’t remember saying this) as we were walking up the hill and I realized what was going on I shouted “HEART PALPITATIONS!!” and everybody laughed at me. I didn’t notice any of this of course, because I was too busy trying to get Quenton to look at me and confirm that what I thought was happening was actually happening! It was all so overwhelming, I was a jittery mess! Then having the men of Phi Mu Alpha and Quenton serenade me and drop to one knee brought me as close to swooning as I think I’ll ever be! There’s no feeling quite like having your new fiancé and a squad of men kneeling in front of you singing to you. I couldn’t believe it was actually happening. We had been talking engagement and marriage for so long it felt like it was just something from a dream! I had the butterflies the whole time and could not stop grinning. I honestly didn’t know what to do with myself, so I just held on to him to keep myself grounded. I think my first thought was “finally!” and my second was “holy cow, he did all this for me!”
You can even watch the proposal (the sound is low, but the sentiment sweet):
But what these lovebirds love most about one another? The pair consulted, answering that at the heart of things, they think the same way and they’re always on the same page. “She has a beautiful, creative mind, abundant with art and ideas that I resonate with perfectly,” Quenton said, before adding, “I also love that she can be extremely nerdy and weird with me when I’m nerdy and weird and quirky.”
Krystal feels the same way. “I love that with him I can be as weird or dorky or adventurous as I want and he’ll just join me. He encourages me to be more myself than I could ever be on my own, if that makes any sense at all! He is the kindest, most big-hearted man I have ever met.”
Quenton and Krystal plan to marry Oct. 1 at her home church, St. Peter’s Episcopal in Poolesville, Maryland, with Dean of Spiritual Life Rev. Justin Allen, D.Min., as one of the officiants. In the meantime, she’ll continue working as a music therapist in West Virginia, and he’ll finish his 6-month music therapy internship in Baltimore. They can’t wait for the big day.
Are you and your partner Shenandoah sweethearts, too? If you are, tell us your story, or give back to Shenandoah through our SU Sweethearts campaign, where your one gift counts as two alumni giving back to the university that brought them together.
Photo Credits: Grace Eisenhauer and Zach Hubbard