MU Sheridan singing
Mackenzie Sheridan, seated, in red, sings on stage as a part of the opera “Gianni Schicchi.” 
Photo provided by Mackenzie Sheridan

Vocal Performance Major Mackenzie Sheridan Takes the Stage

Kristina Bubb

Mackenzie Sheridan is a Vocal Performance major at Manchester University who strives to make her passion in music into a career in Opera singing.

Sheridan’s vocal skills are categorized as a mezzo soprano. “When I explain to people what a mezzo soprano is, the first thing I say is middle-slash-middle voice,” Sheridan said. “My singing range extends from a low alto range to a standard soprano range.”

The titles for the vocal ranges differ as they are based off the different properties of their voice. “For example, there could be two sopranos, but one could sound more ‘light’, or ‘pretty’, and the other could have a more ‘dramatic’ sound,” Sheridan said. “I won’t go too far into it, but there are many different categories for voice parts, and it’s not just based off range. That’s part of it, but it’s much more specific.”

When singing, Sheridan enjoys how different she can make her voice sound. “I love singing low and I love singing pretty high,” she said. “Not as high as a normal high-in-the-rafters soprano usually, but my voice resonates in both areas.”

Sheridan continued “When you look at a music staff, I love to sing notes especially in the middle of the staff. Mainly because when I sing below or above that area, my placement changes and it’s an entirely different sound, but I once again love the middle.”

Growing up Sheridan loved to sing and says that she owes her love of for music because of her church’s exposure. “I went to church with my grandma a lot, and I remember taking an interest in the sermon only when we started to sing hymns,” she said.

Sheridan also shared when she began to focus on singing. “I’ve loved to sing for as long as I can remember, but I really only became passionate about it in sixth grade when I met my middle school choir teacher Susan Keefer,” she said. “We both shared a strong passion for music, and I knew then I wanted to have a career in singing.”

Sheridan is the only one to pursue a music career in her family. “My family isn’t in choir,” she said. “I think I got some singing from my dad, but he only sang country, so I have no clue where the opera singer came from.”

Even though her family might not share the same passion in music like she does, they are still highly supportive. “They think it’s pretty cool; they don’t sometimes understand the musical terms that I use but that’s okay!” she said. “They didn’t listen to opera, and I hadn’t until my freshman year. But they came and saw me perform in the opera workshop last year and they really enjoyed it.”

As the only female vocal performance major at Manchester University, Sheridan mentions some struggles that she has faced. “Something I know applies to being a music major and being in the choir, is trying to remember to ‘blunder boldly’, which is a phrase I learned from the music department faculty,” she said. “It basically means that you should try your best, and if you mess up it was a confident mess up. I still struggle with this because singing is such an intimate form of expression. It is you, all you. Just learning to trust the knowledge that you have, and if you hit the wrong note that’s okay! Blundering can show what needs to be fixed and perfect it for performances.”

As someone who is a part of Manchester University’s choir, Sheridan welcomes all to come and join. “The more the merrier, a choir is never too big!” she said. She also offers some advice to those that are nervous: “Don’t stress out. Auditioning is very welcoming and laid back. We accept all singers, no matter the experience.”

Sheridan also thoroughly enjoys what Manchester University has to offer for music majors, “I know the music department is smaller when compared to others, however I think it’s one of the greatest music programs in the state, if not the best.” Sheridan adds: “We are all very close and the amount of one-on-one interaction, knowledge, tips and tricks that I receive makes me confident in the degree I’m pursuing.