Kathy Gene Shelhart ’74 Neag

Kathy Gene Shelhart (of Harrison, NY) died on September 5, 2021 in a moment of peace having spent 69 years chasing her dreams. Though her death was sudden and devastating, she was surrounded by family in her final moments. Kathy was born on October 23, 1951 in Toledo, Ohio and grew up in Toledo; Dearborn, Michigan; and Watertown, Connecticut, where she graduated high school in 1969. In 1974 Kathy received her Bachelor’s degree in Music Education from the University of Connecticut and continued her studies by achieving her Master’s degree in Music Education from Ithaca College in 1981.

Kathy built a 40-year career as a music educator, with a unique ability to guide her students in realizing their full potential; several have gone on to become world-renowned concert musicians. Her career spanned four countries in both private and public institutions, with appointments at Dartmouth public schools in Dartmouth, Massachusetts; Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey; private students in Hamilton, New Zealand; Victoria Teacher’s College in Melbourne, Australia; the American School in Japan in Tokyo, Japan; and a 20-year tenure at HC Crittenden Middle School in Armonk, New York; amongst others. Kathy was versed in multiple pedagogies and studied directly under Dr. (h.c.) Shinichi Suzuki (Suzuki Method). Kathy was also a skilled accompanist and performer of violin, viola, cello, bass, guitar, piano, voice, percussion, and world instruments. Her students and colleagues, who spanned a range of ages (18-months+), skill levels (beginner – collegiate), and cultures, can attest to the impact she made in their lives.

Kathy was an avid adventurer and world traveler. She traveled throughout China, Europe, Southeast Asia, South America, and India, often alone and in remote corners. She explored with an open heart and mind, drank in new cultures, and made lasting friendships. At age 31, she moved intrepidly from New York to Hamilton, New Zealand to take a position sight unseen. There she met her future husband, David Sayers, and later relocated to Melbourne, Australia, where they married (later divorced), and she had her first child, Nina. She moved several times again: to Princeton, NJ; New York, NY; and Tokyo, Japan; where she had her second child, Michael. She settled in Westchester County, NY, and continued to travel the world until her death. Kathy developed a global lens through her travels which broadened her mastery of not only music education, but self-inquiry.

Kathy was a lifelong teacher and learner who at every opportunity took continuing courses to remain at the top of her field. In the pursuit of growth, she branched out beyond music education into new modalities and spiritual practices, gaining certifications in music therapy, meditation, reiki, qi gong, and biosonic sound healing. She was a spiritual person who consistently sought communion with nature and inquiry into the human experience.

Kathy was a dreamer who was always meeting the next challenge, conceiving the new idea, and planning the upcoming adventure in all her life endeavors. She had a thirst for life and modeled support of those around her. Kathy believed in people, advocating for her students, children, loved ones, community, and global peers. She connected with people easily and gave of herself freely, living vivaciously with curiosity and tremendous empathy.

She lives on through the love of her children, siblings, and communities around the world. Kathy Gene Shelhart was predeceased by her parents Robert and Kathryn Shelhart of Brentwood, Tennessee. She is survived by her daughter Nina Sayers of Los Angeles, California; son Michael Sayers of Chicago, Illinois; sister Susan Shelhart of Hauppauge, New York; brother John Shelhart of New Milford, Pennsylvania; and brother Mark Shelhart of Nashville, Tennessee.