Getting a thrill watching students excel

Kelly Scurich

Kelly Scurich

Ballet lessons began at age seven, voice training a few years later, and by the time Kelly Scurich had reached her teens she was getting lead stage roles in her western-Pennsylvania hometown. There was no doubt, when she finished her bachelor’s degree in vocal music performance at YSU, that Scurich was headed for a stage career.

But then she got a taste of teaching, and her dreams changed. Now Scurich plays a lead part in the classroom and gets a thrill from watching her students shine.

Scurich is the choral director and a music teacher at Canfield High School, where she’s played a key role in developing one of the largest and most successful vocal music programs in the region.

There were just 20 students in the concert choir when she came to Canfield in 1994. “I thought then that it was like a sleeping giant, and the administration was really gung ho,” she said. “They recruited me from Hermitage (Pa.) and they wanted me to build up the program. In three years it really took off.”

In all, she had 160 students enrolled in the choral program this past school year, including a concert choir with more than 100 voices, the all-female One Octave Higher Ensemble and a select mixed group called the Canfield Chamber Ensemble. This fall she’ll introduce a basic guitar class at the high school, using new guitars provided by private donors.

After school, Scurich co-produces a Broadway-style musical at Canfield every spring, typically with a cast of 100 or more students. Recent shows included “Les Miserables” and “Beauty and the Beast” – next year’s show will be “The Music Man.”

To offset the cost of the school’s choral music and drama programs, Scurich directs an annual musical dinner theater production featuring student performers. The fundraiser has become so popular that she’s had difficulty finding a venue large enough to accommodate both the dinner and the concert. Last year, students invited area restaurants to offer “tasting-sized” samples of their signature dishes instead of full meals. The idea was a hit, and she’s planning to do it again this fall.

She recently stepped into the college classroom to teach a course designed to train music education students at YSU on how to put together a school musical production. “One of my students got a teaching job in Austintown just a few months after he graduated and had to do the musical,” she said. “He was so glad he took the course.”

Scurich grew up in Sharon, Pa., and her involvement in local theater gave her opportunities to meet famous entertainers who were performing in the area. “One thing they would always mention is that they missed family, they missed home. I didn’t like that aspect,” she said.

After earning her baccalaureate in music performance at YSU in 1983, she was awarded a graduate assistantship working with YSU choirs and giving private lessons. “I absolutely loved working with students,” she said. “That’s when I decided I wanted to teach.” She earned her YSU master’s degree in 1985, went to Westminster College to earn a teaching certification, then held a succession of teaching positions before coming to Canfield.

She believes that getting involved in high school dramas has lasting benefits for her students. “It really builds confidence, even if you’re just in the chorus,” she said. “And it builds the kind of memories that you won’t get in math class. Working together as a team, when you’re all in sync like that, it’s the greatest natural high.”

Scurich’s husband, Tom, is also a YSU Dana School of Music graduate (’85 BM) who teaches elementary school music at Canfield. They have a son, 13, and a daughter, 19, and enjoy traveling as a family. Scurich still likes to dance, and these days she stays fit by attending Zumba and adult ballet classes at the Boardman YMCA.

(Previously published in YSU Magazine, Summer 2013)