VUMC choir member Shae Etter approaches life with a song
She sings at weddings, retirement celebrations, church functions, funerals — and now with the United Voices of Vanderbilt choirFebruary 15, 2018
Photo by Steve Green
If you walk by the open office door of Shae Etter, physician billing coordinator at the Center for Women’s Health, there is a good chance you’ll hear a quiet melody.
Etter, a Vanderbilt University Medical Center employee for nearly 26 years, believes having a tune in your heart is the best medicine for what ails you. Her vocal ability has led to countless requests to sing at employees’ weddings, retirement celebrations, church functions, funerals and just about any gathering you can imagine.
Most recently, she’s been raising her voice with VUMC’s recently formed choir, United Voices of Vanderbilt. The group features talented employees from throughout the Medical Center. She’s also put her vocal talents and her acting skills to good use in Middle Tennessee theatrical events for nearly 20 years, performing in productions at venues such as Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium and at Pull-Tight Theatre in Franklin.
She’s put her vocal talents and her acting skills to good use in Middle Tennessee theatrical events for nearly 20 years, performing in productions at venues such as Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium and at Pull-Tight Theatre in Franklin.
But she doesn’t hesitate even a millisecond when asked what her dream gig would be.
“Oh, I would love to work for Tyler Perry,” she says, rocking backward with peals of laughter. “Do you know anyone who knows Tyler? I want to be on the big screen. I want to sing and act 24/7!”
She’s not joking. Etter says she knew very early on that she wanted singing to be a big part of her life.
“My mother had an absolutely beautiful voice, and I wanted to sing like Mommy. I realized at the age of six that I could. From that point, I’ve never stopped.”
For now, while her performing career is limited to nights and Sunday church performances, Etter focuses on making sure she brings harmony to any issues that might come up for her clinic’s patients.
“I’m basically the liaison between the provider, the insurance company and the patient,” explains Etter, who works at Vanderbilt Health One Hundred Oaks. “I’ve been doing this job for about 12 years. I’ve worked in several departments at Vanderbilt. I started out in the SICU, then the Emergency Department, then Admissions. I enjoy working with our patients, and I love the challenge of figuring something out myself.”
Being a problem solver comes naturally for Etter, and she had to use that ability as she’s faced challenges in her personal life, as well. In January 2003 her husband, Ronald E. “Ronnie” Etter Sr. was killed in an accident on the interstate. The event left her young son, Rondarius, and teenage stepson, Ronald Jr., to grow up without the man they idolized. And it left her struggling to re-write a story she thought they’d write together.
“It was an honor to be married to such a man with such a big heart that always made me feel like a queen,” Etter said. “We had our routines, and that last day was no different. He gave me two kisses and an ‘I love you, Baby Cakes,’ while he stood waving goodbye to me that morning in front of the Medical Arts Building.”
Etter says her faith in God, as well as the love and support of friends and family, has sustained her through the years, and she’s thankful for the strong role models who’ve stepped up to help her sons mature into the happy men they are today. Now, she says, her time has come, and she’s stepping out in faith, seeking auditions and eager for call-backs.
“Rondarius told me, ‘Mom, I’m grown now, I need you to get out and do something.’ And I am!”
Now, if any of you have Tyler Perry’s number, she’s ready.