#ElonGrad 2022 spotlight: Sarah Poythress, vocal performance

In this series, Elon College, the College of Arts and Sciences is shining the spotlight on distinguished members of the Class of 2022 from a wide array of disciplines.

Headshot of Sarah PoythressThe recipient of a number of accolades throughout her Elon career, Sarah Poythress ’22 left a lasting impression on classmates and their families with her rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” at commencement ceremonies May 20.

She majored in vocal performance and minored in piano pedagogy.

She was the Department of Music’s Presser Scholar for 2021, reactivated Elon’s chapter of Mu Phi Epsilon music fraternity in 2021 and served as its president, and won second prize at the 2021 N.C. National Association of Teachers of Singing competition and third in the 2022 Mid-Atlantic National Association of Teachers of Singing competition. She is a member of Phi Kappa Phi honors society and was named to the president’s list all four years.

She counts participating in a master class with world-renowned opera singer Angela Brown, singing at the Class of 2022 Senior Baccalaureate ceremony and performing junior and senior recitals as additional highlights.

What led to focus on music at Elon?

I have always had a love for singing and performing and I have a strong choral background, which led me to classical singing. I have also been playing the piano for over 15 years, so the piano pedagogy minor was really interesting to me since I have always wanted to learn how to teach and it was a perfect way to keep up with my piano skills in college.

Your experience singing led you to your research project. Tell us about that.

I participated in undergraduate research through my senior seminar class. My topic was vocal cool-down exercises for singers. I chose it because of my personal experience using these exercises. Last year, I struggled a lot with vocal fatigue and discovered these exercises through a vocal pedagogy class at Elon.

When I began using these exercises after singing, they lessened my vocal fatigue and extended my stamina for singing. Because of my positive experiences using these exercises, I decided it was an interesting topic to research further and share with other singers and musicians.

How did working closely with faculty help you succeed?

I’ve had a couple of close mentors at Elon and they are my applied lessons teachers for my voice and piano lessons. I have become close to both of these professors through taking weekly private lessons with them for my four years at Elon. They taught me not only good vocal and piano technique, but also how to be a well-rounded musician and a good person. They gave me life lessons that I will take with me as I continue to grow as a musician and person and have inspired me to always keep learning and performing. My Elon experience would not be the same without these relationships, and I think they have been the most valuable part of my time at Elon.

What are your post-Elon plans?

After I graduate I will be attending Temple University to pursue a master’s degree in vocal performance.

What are you proudest of about your time here?

I am particularly proud of reactivating Mu Phi Epsilon on Elon’s campus. Mu Phi Epsilon is a professional music fraternity and the inaugural chapter at Elon was started in 2008 by my current voice teacher and Elon alum Gretchen Bruesehoff.

What advice would you give future students?

Get involved on campus and don’t be afraid to take risks. You will learn a lot about yourself and achieve things you didn’t know you were capable of. Build strong relationships with professors and fellow students and learn from them as much as you can. Cherish your time at Elon, it will go by faster than you think.