From the March 2013 Cathedral Connection

If you think teenagers are only concerned with themselves, you haven’t met Julia Suskauer and Sully Hart, this year’s recipients of the Cathedral Scholarship program. These two dynamic young members of the Cathedral Choir are prime examples of lives infused with passion for music and compassion for community.

Before I tell you more about Julia and Sully, let me provide some background on the Cathedral Scholarship program. According to Choir Director Kyle Ritter, the program was established approximately eight years ago to give motivated young singers in high school or college an opportunity for solo and small ensemble singing in a professional and affirming environment. The program provides a rich and varied choral repertoire and fosters a love for great sacred choral works. Scholarship recipients, who must audition for a position, sing in the Cathedral Choir for an academic year and are then eligible to re-apply if they are still in school.

Julia’s musical muse kicked in when she began playing saxophone in the sixth grade. She moved from alto sax to tenor sax in eighth grade, and in between her middle school years, the chorus bug bit. At that point, “I discovered I liked singing more than playing an instrument,” Julia said. Once she entered high school, she joined the A.C. Reynolds Chorale (advanced group) in tenth grade, where she met Sully.

Singing alto, Julia auditioned for and was accepted to join the North Carolina State Honor Choir, where she learned about the importance of the stories behind the music and how to infuse passion into her performances. As a result of her experience there, “I take a more natural and more holistic approach to the music,” Julia said. “It’s not just in my head, it’s in my heart.”

Currently a junior in high school, Julia is not sure whether she will major in music in college, “but it will always be a part of my life,” she said. She hasn’t decided on a school yet, but Appalachian State and Chapel Hill are on the list of prospects.

Julia’s music capabilities are matched by her community philanthropy. She has been active in Girl Scouts since she was five years old. From that initial Daisy stage, Julia has risen to achieve her bronze and silver Girl Scout recognitions, and she is currently working on her gold, which will earn her the coveted Girl Scout title. The gold standard requires sixty hours of service in a project that must “better the community in a lasting way,” she said.

For the achievement of her silver award, she created a lending closet for clients of Children’s Developmental Services where citizens can donate car seats, cribs, etc. to underprivileged parents. The items are borrowed by needy families, with the proviso that they be returned to the lending closet when they are no longer needed.

For fun, Julia loves the outdoors, and she enjoys travel, particularly to Brazil to visit her mother’s big family there.

Like Julia, Sully began singing in choirs in middle school, and he also played the saxophone, though unlike Julia, it’s an instrument he still enjoys through his participation in the A.C. Reynolds Band. He began singing at All Souls in his sophomore year of high school. “What really surprised me was how great everyone in the choir was,” Sully said. “Everyone at All Souls made me feel so welcome, like I’d been here my whole life.”

Singing tenor, Sully’s goals are to major in Vocal Performance at Furman University, where he has been accepted for fall 2013, and to eventually teach music at the college level.

Furman was at the top of Sully’s list of colleges from the beginning. His brother also attends there. “I’m really happy about my decision,” Sully said.

For his community philanthropy, Sully is co-president of the Watering Malawi team at A.C. Reynolds High School. This international project installs water pumps in remote villages so that villagers don’t have to travel for many miles to obtain water. To raise money and awareness for the project, Sully’s Watering Malawi Team sells t-shirts and wristbands.

In addition to music, Sully loves to read. He’s a big fan of the Harry Potter books, the Hunger Games series, and Lord of the Rings. He also took up running, which he describes as his “me” time. He achieved the goal of finishing five 5K races before July 4, 2012. His first race was the Turkey Trot, so in a mere eight months, Sully got “hooked” on running. He has already signed up to run the Ramble Run again this year, which will be held the weekend of Mother’s Day.

Both Sully and Julia like the classical side of the music spectrum. Julia leans to the Baroque, where “there’s lots of vibrato in the lower voices,” and Sully cites Mozart, Haydn, and Handel for the kind of music that “makes you feel you’ve run a mile. If you’re not tired after singing, you haven’t given it enough.”

Of Choir Director Kyle Ritter, Julia and Sully have nothing but praise. “He’s so funny,” Sully said. “He always has us in stitches, and he’s so good at leading the choir and getting us to do our best.” 

Julia added, “Kyle has the kindest heart, and being in the choir makes me feel part of something extraordinary.”

“When we finish a piece at All Souls, you can hear a pin drop. You’ve been touched personally, and you know you’ve touched others through your music,” Sully concluded.