Meet Professor Shannon Salyards Burton, a stalwart of Morningside University’s music faculty and a native of Hastings, Nebraska. With a lifelong passion for music ignited at the tender age of three, Burton’s musical journey began with violin lessons. Burton shared that her parents love to tell the story that during her very first lesson she ran around the teacher’s desk for the first 15 minutes, prompting the teacher to question whether Burton could actually be taught. That first 15 minutes may have been rough, but it would quickly become evident that Burton had a gift for music.
That gift would continue to be nurtured throughout Burton’s childhood. During her middle school years, she found herself as part of a music-loving community with 380 out of 400 students involved in music. She also discovered vocal music in childhood, inspired by a new friend named Buffy who had moved to town. Burton remembers hanging out in Buffy’s unfinished basement and one day, Buffy started singing with the sound filling the space and bouncing off the walls. “It was the most beautiful thing I have ever heard, and I realized I wanted to do that.”
That passion for singing would eventually translate to college, when Burton’s advisor suggested in her first semester that she become a voice major. Burton knew that it was unlikely that vocal performances alone would provide her with a stable income, and she also felt passionate about sharing the gift of music with others, eventually leading to a career of both performance and teaching that have allowed her to travel and build an impressive career.
“I love being able to touch the hearts of others and bring people joy through music. Even when I have a bad day or a bad performance, music is a gift that I enjoy no matter what and that I love to share with others,” said Burton.
Burton’s musical journey eventually took her to the historic city of Salzburg, Austria, where she spent a six-week sojourn in the birthplace of Mozart led to her deep appreciation for the composer’s work, particularly the soprano parts of his Mass in C. This transformative experience paved the way for her subsequent move to Boston to earn her master’s degree, following a professor she met at Boston University who had helped inspire her. During this time she met her now husband who was pursuing his doctorate at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, which resulted in Burton beginning to teach at Hastings College nearby.
Despite her initial hesitation about teaching, Burton found a fulfilling career in academia, having also taught at Briar Cliff University, Western Iowa Tech Community College, Doane University, the University of Nebraska Omaha, and Morningside University. While Burton was officially hired on as full-time faculty only this academic year, she has actually been part of the Morningside community for more than 15 years, offering voice lessons and teaching as an adjunct faculty member. In fact, one of her favorite Morningside memories is performing President Mosley’s family’s favorite song, “I Will Give Thanks Unto Thee,” by Gioachino Rossini, at his inauguration.
Though Burton has relished traveling the world and performing on historic stages, she acknowledges that the time she has invested at Morningside has given her immense joy and brought her many lasting relationships. She shares, “Morningside is my home, and I’m really happy to be here.”
Maren Ewertz is a junior multimedia communication major.