Slow down, sit down and remember the reason for the season.
That's the message Tamaqua vocalist and musician Susan M. Featro wants people to feel when they attend her Holiday Concert, Sunday, Dec. 16, at 2:30 p.m. at the Tamaqua Community Arts Center. Proceeds will be split between the Arts Center and the Tamaqua Blue Raider Foundation.
Featro, a graduate of Tamaqua Area High School, has been teaching English as a Second Language for the district for three years. She graduated from Lycoming College with a degree in music and languages, then achieved her Master's degree from Penn State University and her Doctorate in education from Wilkes University.
Despite her busy schedule, she always found time for music and about a year ago recorded her first CD, entitled Voice Lifted. She also teaches voice lessons. She'll entertain Sunday with selections of her favorites.
"I'm going to be singing a mix of traditional carols, some sing-a-longs, and also some special religious songs and lullabies, which are not as well known," Featro said. "I love singing Christmas songs."
Featro was tapped to perform a concert immediately after Jack Kulp, who chairs the operating and programming committee for the Arts Center, heard her sing during one of the center's Open Mike evenings.
"She sang the Ave Maria, and everyone in the place immediately got quiet," Kulp recalled. "It was so beautiful I was crying, and as I looked around, plenty of people were crying, they were so moved by her voice."
The Ave Maria will be one of the selections Featro performs Sunday. During the two-hour concert, she'll also be joined by three guests playing various instruments.
Featro's favorites are the traditional Christmas hymns, which take her back to her musical roots. She wasn't formally trained in music, with childhood lessons. Instead, as a youngster, she went to church, sang along with the hymns, came home and picked out the melodies on a tiny keyboard her parents had gotten for her.
"I would just come home, sit down, and figure out the songs on that keyboard," she said. "Eventually, I asked to take lessons but it was all my choice."
After high school, her musical talents got a needed boost of confidence and support.
"I was hired at St. Jerome's Catholic Church as the minister of music when I was only 19, and every weekend and for special events made the two-hour drive home (from Lycoming College)," she recalled. "It was such a great experience for me, because knowing that the priest had the confidence in me to do that gave me confidence in myself."
Featro, who has created, printed and distributed 250 fliers to promote the concert, said she hopes the community turns out to show support.
"The Community Art Center and the Tamaqua Blue Raider Foundation really deserve community support," she said. "I'm really pleased to have the chance to play a part in that."