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Court, Choir, Classroom: MU Saint Finds Many Places to Shine

by Doralisa Pilarte

Shannon Gough was the kind of well-rounded high school student every college seeks: a dedicated athlete, talented singer, and National Honor Society member with excellent grades. Today, she is a Business Administration major at Marymount University. And whether she’s dribbling down the basketball court, singing in the Chapel Choir, or working hard in class to maintain her place on the Dean’s List, Shannon exemplifies commitment to excellence.

Courage and hard work are especially necessary for Shannon. Every single day, she must put on the armor of “yes-I-can” in order to overcome potentially debilitating asthma. The exercise-induced condition, diagnosed after she collapsed on the court during a high school basketball game, requires twice-daily use of a steroid inhaler, the carrying of a rescue inhaler on her person at all times, and hawk-like vigilance.

But asthma hasn’t deterred Shannon from the role in which she is perhaps best known to the Marymount community. The 5'5" guard for the women’s basketball team sings the national anthem a cappella at every home game. And, as a faithful member of the Marymount Chapel Choir, she is often called upon to lead the congregation in song at Mass.

All that exertion for someone with breathing constraints isn’t easy, Shannon admits. But, she says with a sigh, “I can’t live without singing.” She explains, “Singing is my prayer; it’s how I communicate with God. And I’ve been so blessed that I won’t let myself be waylaid by my stupid asthma!”

It was at the suggestion of her father, a retired New York City firefighter, that Shannon started singing the national anthem at local high school basketball games. On their first drive down to Marymount, Shannon’s dad encouraged her to ask Coach Bill Finney if she might be able to do the same at the Saints’ home games. Although Shannon had glimpsed Finney in the stands, observing her in AAU basketball tournaments when he was recruiting, this would be their first meeting.

Coach Finney recalls, “I had seen her sing the national anthem, and Shannon was great!” At that first meeting, he agreed to let her sing at MU home games. She says, “It’s such an honor to be allowed to sing our national anthem. It should be sung respectfully and proudly.”

Shannon laughingly describes the experience of singing before a game: “You’re supposed to warm up your voice, but I’ve had to train myself to sing without warming up, and without any accompaniment. I just run to the bench, drink from my water bottle, slap hands with my teammates, and sing.”

Dr. Kimberly Hess, director of Marymount’s Chapel Choir, observes, “Shannon ranks in the top tier of singers that I have heard in 15 years of directing college choirs. She is a positive influence; not only is she talented and dedicated, but her deep spirituality and faith serve as an inspiration to the entire choir.” Hess adds, “I believe that Shannon has what it takes to become a professional musician.”

But Shannon Gough’s career dreams point more toward a future in international business, working in a big city like New York. In the meantime, she’s pursuing her muse.

Last year, she reunited with three high school friends to form a Reggae-rock band named Shack, with Shannon as the lead singer. In summer 2009, the band booked four gigs in the New York area, including opening for two-time Grammy nominee John Lee Hooker, Jr. This summer, Shannon and the band realeased their first EP, called Bulldozer, and are chasing more gigs, even as she looks ahead to another busy – and well-rounded – year as an MU Saint.