Road Taken with Suzanne Sherman Propp ’85

Spring 2018
Suzanne Propp '85 with an elementary school music class

An elementary school music teacher for 20 years, Suzanne Sherman Propp ’85 distributes a Song of the Day e-mail through her website,, “to encourage you to sing at least one song every day — by yourself or with others — and see if it changes your mood for the better,” she says. With this playlist, Sherman Propp explains her life’s path by connecting each turn in the road with a favorite song.

“Once in a Lifetime” (Talking Heads). “How did I get here?” In the fall of 1981, I sat in Lawrence Hall as Professor Jonathan Kistler taught The Novel. He asked us to come visit him anytime, so I did. After a fabulous, hour-long conversation, he said: “I have a feeling about you. You should get a master’s in education while you’re here.” Me, teach? All I wanted was to work in the music business. Yes, I play guitar, violin, and piano. Yes, I love to sing and was a Swinging ’Gate. Yes, I have always loved kids. But teaching? (sigh) How could he misread me so thoroughly? I left his office feeling deflated.

“I’ll Show You” (Justin Bieber). I graduated from Colgate, sang in the bar at the Alta Lodge (Utah), ran production and international distribution for GRP Records (a New York City jazz label), earned an MBA from Columbia University, helped develop new business at Columbia House (“8 CDs for a penny!”), and did tour marketing for Joan Baez.

“Big Nuthin’” (The Roches). I was working in the music business, but something wasn’t right. I knew my work should have meaning, purpose, relevance, and, above all, give me joy. But the music business turned out to be, well, just business after all.

“Teach Your Children” (Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young). Professor Kistler’s words and those of other teachers convinced me to try teaching. I tried it, loved it, and with the support of my amazing husband and family, became certified through the Alternate Route to Certification. And, best of all, I found a job in my hometown of Westport, Conn., at Green’s Farms Elementary, where my own two children ultimately attended.

“Time Has Proven I Was Wrong” (Hank Williams). Professor Kistler: You were right, sir.

“Sing a Song” (Earth, Wind, and Fire). I have found peace and satisfaction from sharing my love of singing and making music every day. Thank you, Colgate, for sending me on the road out of Hamilton with the tools of flexibility, resilience, open mindedness, and courage in my heart. I am forever grateful.

Sign up for Sherman Propp’s “Song of the Day” e-mail at or find it on Spotify.