In Memory

Susan Halloway

Susie Halloway

SAUK PRAIRIE - Susan Halloway, born November 26, 1953 in Milwaukee to Harry and Belle (Rubin) Halloway, died on August 23 at the St Clare Hospice House in Baraboo after a brief battle with a rare and aggressive cancer.

Sue got her music education degree at UW Madison and began teaching at Sauk Prairie High School in 1979, retiring in 2012. Her marching band competed in the St Petersburg Festival in 1982, played under the state capitol rotunda for a Clinton-Gore appearance in 1992 and marched in the Chicago Thanksgiving Day Parade in 2008.

She and her colleague, choral director Karen Luher created the phenomenon that is Sauk Prairie Show Choir in 1982. Their unique Broadway musical style is renowned nationwide, and over the years they amassed an array of awards including at competitions in Chicago, Nashville, Orlando and New York. Their mixed group, Executive Session performed at the 1996 WIAA State Boys's Basketball Championship game and was twice invited to perform at the State School Board Convention.

Sue helped organize five Summer Session alumni show choir European tours. In 1999 she co-created the Fab 50's Live! show which ran at Chula Vista Resort through 2007.

Halloway and Luher taught their students the importance of taking risks in order to be their best and create something wonderful as a group. Their music department mantra was "it's the journey, not the destination." One of Sue's most famous pieces of advice to students every year was "Ask yourself, 'Self, is this stupid?' If it is, don't do it." Students and parents alike will long remember her inspiring 'Circle Talks' before every show choir and musical performance. "Hug a friend." Many students and fellow teachers called her mentor.

In addition to teaching, conducting and playing a mean flute, Sue was a gifted athlete: a first rate golfer and world class bowler, 3-time national collegiate women's champion and ranked 4th in the world.

Sue is survived by her parents Belle and Harry Halloway of Prairie du Sac, her brother H. Stephen Halloway and his wife Helen of Alexandria, VA and her nephew Josh Halloway of Los Angeles.

Special thanks go to the doctors and nursing staff of St Mary's Hospital and to the staff of St. Clare Hospice House for their gentle and compassionate care of Sue, her family and friends.

A celebration of Sue's life will be planned for later in the year. In lieu of cards, condolences can be posted on her guestbook at Memorials may be made to the Luher-Halloway Endowment at the Greater Sauk County Community Foundation, 600 Chestnut St, Baraboo, WI 53913.

"Oh the things you can think when you think about Sue-ss."


Here is the eulogy given at Susie's memorial Oct. 24, 2015, by one of her many former students. It's worth a read.

In Memory of Sue Halloway
Delivered October 24, 2015
by Amanda Friou
For the past couple months I’ve been hearing Sue over and over in my head saying “Butcha knoow”.
I do a terrible impression. But you do know what I mean. The last time I saw her she and Karen and I were sitting in the Blue Spoon in July days after my Grandfather died (it's been a rough year) chatting. We were debating the pros and cons of doing the same show for show choir multiple times and she was saying “But ya knoow, we’ve always been of the feeling that just because we’ve done that show before why shouldn’t all the students get a chance to get to know that music.And to her credit, 20 some years after the first time the show choir did it and tenish years after the second, I could not have been more happy to finally get to sing “Corner of the Sky” today.

Pippin, the show it's from is old and weird, but man I fell head over heals for the Broadway revival a couple years ago There were crazy circus acts and the leading player was played by a really badass strong talented WOMAN and it was one of the most exquisitely and meticulously directed productions I've ever seen. But ya know what I loved most? The story. I’ve known that music for most of my life, thanks to the Sauk Prairie music program. I remember clearly where I was sitting in this very gym when I saw the Executive Session do the show. Jenna Baetz where are you? I can still picture your costume perfectly! I am sure I am not the only child in this community who has had that experience . How many of us, thanks to Sue and Karen, met music we eventually fell in love with while watching our childhood idols perform it right here in this gym?

But it wasn't until I saw the new production of it that the story hit me, at age 32, like a ton of bricks. We'll come back to this.

See, a few years ago, Sue and Karen came to New York, where I've lived for the last ten years, on one of several trips can I tell you how amazing it was to have the tables turned and introduce them to new shows and music??? I remember sitting and watching something “In the Heights” maybe? And Sue saying, “Ya knoow, sometimes I really wish I had been a Broadway conductor.” I nodded, completely understanding that sentiment. Broadway looms large when you're a struggling artist in the city.

But I can’t tell you how many times I also later thought. Thank god she didn’t.

I mean, really this is what Pippin is about..... I’m a theatre director, and I’m a theatre director who loves
dramaturgy/text analysis. So be ar with me while I geek out about the lyrics/music for a second. See, the whole thing is, Pippin is chasing sequins and bright lights and as a later song says “Glory.” Struggling to find his place in the world to get the world to notice he’s “Extraordinary”
But the song we sang, that’s from the first act. By the time we get to the finale, he sings the exact same tune but the words are different:

You’ll have to forgive me for not being Nathan Cox I’m not gonna sing it.

But in response to their last big flashy number showing him this opportunity he has for Glory Pippin responds:

I'm not a river or a giant bird
That soars to the sea
And if I'm never tied to anything
I'll never be free
I wanted magic shows and miracles
Mirages to touch
I wanted such a little thing from life
I wanted so much
I never came close, my love
We nearly came near
It never was there
I think it was here
They showed me crimson, gold and lavender
A shining parade
But there's no color I can have on earth
That won't finally fade
When I wanted worlds to paint
And costumes to wear
It always was here
It never was there

And while I can’t say that Sue’s life was completely absent of sequins and showstoppers, it seems to me that what Pippin took the the entire two acts of production numbers and trapezes to find out, and what hit me like a ton of bricks at age 32, Sue lived on a daily basis. It's not about magic shows and miracles “If I’m never tied to anything, I’ll never be free.” Lucky for us, she came here, and tied herself to this school, this community, to Karen, to us for over 30 years.

30 years not on Broadway, 30 years here , teaching. Teaching me. Teaching us.

Sue was in no way a stereotypical teacher. Having just had my ankle reconstructed I have had plenty of time over the last few weeks laying in bed to think about her. Close your eyes. What do you remember? For better or worse, first thing I remember is her losing her keys. The whirlwind with which she entered the room, particularly the music department office, frequently leaving Karen befuddled at what just happened. The way she could schmooze with anyone. The neck rest she wore on all those bus trips. The way she swore like a sailor. Am I even allowed to say that?

I imagine the way she conducted, and trying to figure out if somewhere in that beautiful wild dance there really was a down beat. Her smoke breaks in the van at lunch. Her well manicured nails. The flute playing that always amazed me, because she somehow seemed more like a drummer than a flutist. And that laugh. The way her eyes twinkled when she laughed.

I feel like I’m supposed to stand up here and talk about how as a professional theatre director, and frequently a musical theatre director that I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for her. Which is true... for gosh sakes I busted my ankle on my way back from directing a musical in Florida on my first trip there since the Session took third place at Showstoppers in 1998. We got medals! I never thought that when she came chasing after me in front of the middle school my eighth grade year and bribed me with a full sized marimba to stay in band, that the sense of musicality I would acquire as a result would translate into my giving the Asolo Repertory Theatre’s lighting designers and stage managers notes on which beat of music to call a light cue. Nor did I guess that it would lead me to endless hours of frustration with puppeteers who can't walk in step to musicÍž I'm certain I'm not the only one in this room who accidentally marches to the music in the grocery store!

As a math and science kid I certainly hadn't considered that playing a jester at the Madrigal Dinner in '96 would incite her and Karen to ambush me and tell me I shouldn’t go into astrophysics. But they were right. Just a few months ago I found myself sitting in a rehearsal room in Manhattan with one of the stars of Kinky Boots and graduate of Lafayette Jeff, that group that did the Xanadu set with the pyrotechnics and matching blonde wigs at Rolling Meadows in ‘97 talking her through the phrasing of a brand new musical that was getting its first ever reading. And I was freaking out inside, not because she was on Broadway but because she was from Lafayette Jeff, and I got to give her notes. Turns out not all directors read music, not all directors look at the words and how they're placed rhythmically and can have a conversation about the story that tells, but because of Sue and Karen, I can.

And yet, when I think about Sue as a teacher for as important as that is in my life and where I ended up, that all falls in the background. Weirdly so do the band competitions, show choir trips, and even madrigal dinner even though I know that all that travel blew up my world and made me understand its enormity. And while we miraculously stayed friends all these years, and even last summer in Blue Spoon were conspiring for me to come home and direct a show with her, it’s the moments that have absolutely nothing to do with music or theatre that stick out in my head.

I was talking to this friend of mine the other day trying to figure out what to say and she said “you know, when I was in grad school, in our pedagogy class I still remember the professor saying that when you teach in the arts, you’re rarely teaching about art. You’re teaching about life.

And this, THIS, is why I’m so glad that Sue Halloway wasn’t a conductor on Broadway. Sorry, we have to go back to Pippin again. I’m a director this is what I do. As I read the outpouring on her Facebook and her Caring Bridge pages, I couldn’t think of a person I knew on Broadway who touched so many lives. I mean, obviously West Side Story touched a lot of people but simple day to day human investment changing people's lives? It wasn’t the music lessons. I mean it was, but it wasn’t. It was her ties to us all. It was her people skills. Her ability to teach you as an individual human, just beginning to find your way in the world. I mean, I'm chasing the big dream, don't get me wrong, but I just sat and stared and thought, man, she figured it out, what an effing rich, full, and beautiful life she made.

I’m going to tell you kind of an embarrassing story about myself. When I was 17 and the drum major and the National Honor Society president and a host of other things that if my current colleagues knew about they would never let me live down, the one thing I knew how to do was follow the rules. Sue, well she wasn’t exactly a rule follower. I remember looking at her and just not understanding sometimes.

And one time, I remember getting upset that someone in show choir had done something that should have gotten them suspended. I honestly don’t remember exactly who or what it was anymore. But I remember going to Sue and Karen and saying, I don’t get it. This isn’t fair to those of us who are following all the rules. Why are they even there if they don’t matter? And I remember Sue sitting me down and saying, you know what, so and so needs this group. And there will come a point where there will be more of a consequence if necessary, but there are a number of people for whom this group is what keeps them in school. This group is what keeps them out of trouble on a Saturday night. It means we can keep an eye on them. I was miffed.

17 years later, I am on a much needed day off from teaching and directing at an elite theatre camp in the Catskills in New York and I get an email that Sue has been diagnosed with cancer. I was already struggling a lot. My grandfather had passed away weeks before. I hated the play I was working on. The cast was way too big for the space and this poor kid who had never been in a play before, and who had only wanted a tiny part, had somehow been given a lead role in a show with a bunch of kids who live and breathe theatre. He was so anxious he had stopped eating. He was a really nice kid but his series of misbehaviors outside my rehearsal room were vast and every day seemed to unearth a slew of learning disabilities that were either undiagnosed or just undisclosed. It was like working with an Alzheimer's patient. He couldn’t remember anything. I tried everything I knew how to do and it was like the ship kept sinking. And the other kids knew it. And they were frustrated. And the girl playing opposite of him was working her butt off. And I have to say they were patient for much longer than I expected, but I think we all have a breaking point and the comments under their breathe started seeping in.

And I just kept thinking of Sue. I thought about that conversation that I didn’t understand at 17. And I thought of her being really really honest with me about it. I thought about her throwing someone a life raft and telling me I needed to deal with it.

And I looked at this group of kids and I got what she was talking about. I sat his costars down and said look, I get it. This really sucks and I know it's not fair. This isn’t why you came here. But he is doing everything he knows how to do and you need to respect that and you need to support him in every way you know how, because whether it’s fair or not. We will sink or swim together. This is theatre. He needs you. We do it together.

But it wasn’t just them, a few days later I was setting some of the younger girls’ hair in rollers (do only people who were in show choir know how to do this?) and they were bemoaning the fact that he never just sat down and learned his lines. And again I struggled with how much to say or not to say and I just remember thinking, what would you say Sue. And I thought eff this, they have to learn this too, so I stopped them and said, you know what, Tom’s brain doesn’t work quite the way yours does. When he finishes rehearsal, it doesn’t occur to him to just sit down and learn his lines,he’ll work on them if you ask him, but he needs our help with that. There was sort of a simple “Oh” and a tiny light went off, it hadn’t occurred to them that he wasn’t like, purposefully being irresponsible and wrecking the show.

And I can’t say the show was a hit. But the kid made it through, and he started eating again. And his castmates applauded him and they learned something that maybe they too will finally understand in twenty years. 

Empathy. I think that was her magic power. Whether you were a goody two shoes who hadn’t learned to empathize with that kind of struggle yet, or you were in band to hang out with your friends and in my sister’s case meet your husband, or if show choir was the incentive that helped you keep your shit together. Sue got that. Yes, if you were a musical genius there was a special connection there, but no matter who you were, she understood that elephants don’t fly and fish don’t walk on dry land.

Day after day and year after year she made music with us. The woman was tireless, I mean who starts teaching 5th graders AFTER she retires from teaching High School? And she never wanted to stop sharing her favorites. Pippin, Superstar, Big River I’m still jealous of ya’ll! The Christmas Cantata. 1812 Overture. Fiddler Tradition, she created a lot of tradition. Through those timeless pieces of music she taught us timely lessons. Tailored to each of us. I bet your lessons were completely different from mine. I know she taught me to forgive myself, to fail big, to not give myself a D just because I was too exhausted and overstretched to put in the work I thought an A student ought to. (I got one of those really illegible yellow pad letters in response to that attempt). Also, I’m probably still trying to learn that one. She taught us to circle up, laugh together, cry together. She taught many of us to ask ourselves, “Self is this stupid” and while she might have had words for you if it was, in all honesty if it was only a little stupid she probably actually laughed harder than anyone at our hijinx, and gave us permission to laugh as well.

Sue was....Sue. A whirlwind, a force of nature, a woman who lived by her own rules. I think we have this crazy expectation that our teachers need to be perfect infallible creatures, but in being who she was, more than anything Sue allowed us all to be human. She taught us to strive for perfection, but to understand it’s the journey and not the destination. RISK. Be yourself, even if some judge in Indiana tells you you’re “breaking [their] heart cause ya’ll aren’t wearin’ sequins.” I don’t think it’s a coincidence that so many of her students have gone on, not just to become musicians, but to become teachers. We should all be so lucky to have made such a deep and rich life for ourselves.

At the Blue Spoon on that beautiful sunny day in July as I was struggling to process the death of my
grandfather even though it was so very much his time. I looked at Sue and said I didn’t want to live like that.  She said she didn’t know, she sure thought her Dad still had a great quality of life, and she wouldn’t mind living to be his age as long as long as it was like that.

Pippin again: (sung) “Can’t you see I want my life to be something more than long.”
Rivers belong where they can ramble
Eagles belong where they can fly
I'm not a river or a giant bird
That soars to the sea
And if I'm never tied to anything
I'll never be free

Her life may not have been long, but Sue tied herself to each and every one of us and in doing so, she was and is, free.


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08/25/15 01:30 PM #1    

Janice Colman (Oliver)

Amazing accomplishments and talent... Will obviously be missed by so many, my sincere condolences, 

Janice Colman  Oliver


08/26/15 10:33 AM #2    

Ellory Peck

Susie left an amazing legacy--one that will reverberate for generations.   She will always be remembered by those of us from WFB as one of the smartest, kindest and most pleasant people in the class of '72.  It's no wonder that she lit the lives of so many students.  Celebrating her life and honoring her memory, Ellory Peck

08/26/15 03:32 PM #3    

Jill Bamberger (Dizack)

Each of our lives was touched by Sue - in one way or another - and we are better because of the mark she left on us.  Thank you Sue.  We'll always remember the gifts that she gave to us, as well as to others.

Bob & Jill Dizack


08/31/15 03:58 PM #4    

Susan Kent (Achey)

So very sad to have lost Susie!! She truly was an amazing educator and an incredible number of students benefitted from her expertise and genuine love of music and her students. Susie was a wonderful friend and will be dearly missed.

09/01/15 10:04 AM #5    

Susan Pinkus

I'm so sorry to hear of Susie's passing.  She was a delight.  My thoughts and prayers are with her friends and family.

09/10/15 11:25 PM #6    

Jeanmarie Schuler (Bascom)

I loved the times we spent at your home, jumping on beds and doing other things we shouldn't do.  I so enjoyed our time together at the reunion and your no nonsense attitude.  You and your family are in my heart.



09/25/15 04:53 PM #7    

Betsy Blaney

For those who may want to attend, a celebration of Susie's life is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Oct. 24 at Sauk Prairie High School gym. 

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