Investing wholeheartedly into something new and different can be a challenging undertaking, but Ladies of Lee’s two new co-directors say they are prepared to take on the task.
Associate Professor of Music and Worship Dr. Randy Sheeks and adjunct vocal instructor Debbie Sheeks, as the recently appointed co-directors, entice the choral members of the group with the theme of “all-in.”
This new motto was coined by Debbie Sheeks. She overheard the phrase during a leadership team meeting at the beginning of the semester and immediately latched onto it.
Sophomore music education major Michelle Motter said the new theme has given the group a focus in this time of transition.
“If we are slacking or just need more, [Randy Sheeks will] ask us, ‘What’s the theme?’ and the choir responds, ‘All-in,’” Motter said. “It’s a [recurring] theme, and they come back to it whenever necessary.”
Senior business marketing major Hannah Price joined Ladies of Lee in the fall of 2017. She agrees that this new theme has been impactful for the group, saying it drives them to give everything in their worship and performance.
“The new theme has been really important during this time of transition. I think it’s a good reminder that we do everything as unto the Lord. The verse we keep coming back to is in Isaiah 12,” Price said. “There’s this new kind of energy among the choir, and I think it’s propelling us forward in a really good way.”
However, the Ladies are not the only ones focusing on the vision for this semester. Price said Randy Sheeks' directing style makes it clear that he is fully invested in his work with the choir as well.
“I really love watching Dr. Sheeks’ face when he directs us. He gets this excited look, and his eyebrows raise. He is able to transmit to the choir: ‘This is the excitement you need to feel,’” Price said. “He uses his whole body to express that everybody needs to come in and have excitement.”
Randy Sheeks said he hopes to accomplish similar goals as former director Dr. Jonathan Rodgers did during his time with Ladies. He said he aims to foster musical excellence, a ministry focus and a close-knit community among the vocalists.
“I want us to be known for excellent, God-honoring music. I want us to capitalize on the unique sound of female voices. That’s what makes us stand out from every other choir at Lee is the fact that [the members] are all female,” Randy Sheeks said. “So, I ask the question of ‘How can we capitalize on that unique treble sound and sort of develop our trademark sound around that?’”
Randy Sheeks said partnering with his wife Debbie has made the choir more well-rounded. In addition to helping with choral uniforms and measurements, she works on ensuring that the group does not strain or overuse their voices.
“This is a partnership with my wife. She doesn’t like to get in front of the choir and wave her arms, but she is involved with every leadership decision that we make. She’s really helped and thinks of things I don’t think of,” Randy Sheeks said. “During rehearsals, she often will slip me a note and say, ‘Hey, we need to work on this here.’”
Motter said she is impressed with both of the directors’ approachability.
“I think they’ve done a phenomenal job of making themselves available,” Motter said. “They stay after class, talk to choir members and reach out to people [who] aren’t music students.”
According to Price, the choir has enjoyed seeing the two work enthusiastically together, even referring to them as the “choir parents.”
“It was scary because [there are] so many new people and brand new directors. We were all worried about Dr. Rodgers leaving. We would say things like, ‘Oh, my gosh, those are huge shoes to fill,’” Price said. “As time went on, we realized it’s not about filling the shoes. It’s just that there’s a brand new set of shoes. There’s not room for comparison. It’s about enjoying this new time with new directors who are really invested and excited for this role.”
Ladies of Lee’s next performance will take place on Sunday, Oct. 7 at Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church. To learn more about the group, visit their website or contact Randy Sheeks at email@example.com.