NELLENE ARNETT received her BA in Arts Administration from TU in 2010 and currently serves as Arts Recruitment Assistant at TU, as well as Director of the TU Gospel Choir, the Community Kids Choir and the a cappella gospel small group iLLUMIN8. A singer and vocal arranger who also plays some piano and bass, she also excels in the fine arts, poetry, songwriting and dance. Originally from Toledo, Nelly grew up in the church, the daughter of musicians who were both ministers of music. TU’s premiere a cappella group, Up in the Air, performed at her high school during Nelly’s senior year, changing her life forever. “They performed ‘Dangerously in Love’ by Beyoncé and it blew my mind. They had no instruments but were able to sound just like the track; in 2006 we had never heard anything like that yet. And I knew I wanted to do that.”
Through her high school choir director, Nelly connected with Brad Rees, who heard her audition and arranged a scholarship for her to be able to pursue her degree at TU. She joined Up in the Air her freshman year and became Student Director of the gospel choir that same year. Nelly was assigned a Success Coach, and describes the mentoring program as invaluable toward her achievement of walking across the stage at graduation, which she counts as one of the proudest moments of her life. Now, her younger sister Darla is a freshman at TU, following in Nelly’s footsteps.
Though Nelly is clearly incredibly gifted and accomplished, she doesn’t feel a need to boast about her successes. “I’ve never been a person who needed to thrive on the achievements of the people I direct. I just see myself as being used to help propel people, especially kids. I use what I love to do to help enhance the program, whether it’s with an inner-city school, or Community Kids Choir, or the gospel groups here at TU. Music is like a key that unlocks and unleashes so many other positive things in people’s lives. They get confidence from singing then go on to take chances they never would have had the courage to take before. And I’m not taking credit for it, because I didn’t give myself any talent. One of God’s most powerful gifts to us is music. Who wouldn’t want to be part of that?”
ERIC BROWN graduated with a BA in professional music from TU in 2014. He returned to TU in 2017 as a Graduate Assistant in TU’s Tiffin Music Studio and an Adjunct Instructor, teaching beatmaking and live-looping, while pursuing a master’s degree in music production from the Berklee School of Music. A guitarist, bassist, pianist and music producer/engineer, Eric also has a studio in Columbus, Ohio, where he produces music projects for himself and local artists. “I enjoy being fully immersed in music and sound, and I love teaching it to people because it’s changed my life so much. I don’t have a particular end goal, as long as it ends in music.”
HERSHEL WEBSTER is a vocalist who sings bass (the lowest vocal part), beatboxes and plays the trumpet. He is Director of New HhITEs, a TU hip-hop ensemble. After beginning his studies at TU, Hershel left with his degree unfinished to tour with a professional a cappella group. He returned to complete his degree, graduating in 2017 with a BA in Psychology. “Brad Rees took a chance on me when I had no experience, but a huge interest in music. Tabitha Webster, my wife, best friend and fellow TU alum, supported my dreams and was the guiding light that kept me on the path of music, especially when I wanted to quit.”
ANGELA (SOSEBEE) SHEARN, a singer who plays piano, bass and clarinet, received her bachelor and master degrees in business administration from TU, while also being active in the university’s music programs. After graduation, she participated in the arts as a worship vocalist in Charlotte, N.C. and in community theatre in Napoleon, Ohio. She returned to TU in 2016 to become Director of Arts Operations. She credits hearing the a cappella vocal group Up in the Air while a junior in high school in drawing her to TU. “Seeing the PAL go from factory, to empty building, to the incredible facility it is now has been absolutely amazing, and I am so honored to be part of the program.”
JACOB SIMON graduated from TU in 2013 with a degree in Forensic Psychology. While studying at TU, Jacob was in choir, played percussion and served as Field Commander for the marching band. He is currently Assistant Dean of Students and Title IX Deputy Coordinator and can also be seen in community theatre productions at Tiffin’s Ritz Theater. “Some of the people who truly shaped who I am today were band and choir members that I worked next to in the TU music department. Others were professors or staff at TU, who helped me develop as a professional and a person.”