Sixth grader writes, records anti-bullying anthem
"Let it go, let it go. You’re beautiful. Let it go, let it go. You’re sensational. Let it go, let it go. You’re inspirational. Don’t let them take your smile away.”
Those words are the chorus to “Inspirational,” an original song written by Susie Shannon, 11, a sixth grader at Hoxsie Elementary School who wants to combat bullying.
As a singer-songwriter, Shannon said composing the song brought her comfort when she felt the cruel isolation of bullying. She’d like to share her music to soothe more children, especially during October, National Bullying Prevention Month.
“The song makes me feel better,” Shannon said. “It makes me happy because I wanted someone there for me and the song was there for me. I just hope to help others.”
“Inspirational” is one of five songs that appear on Shannon’s latest album of the same name, a follow-up to a five-track E.P. she recorded when she was 9. She recently wrote new material, which was produced by Jon Newell and recorded at a Nashville studio.
“It just came to me,” Shannon said of the title track. “After the whole song was done, I’d go to my guitar and put it together. I told my mom that I wrote a song and she said, ‘OK, let me hear it,’ and then she was like, ‘Wow, that’s pretty good.’”
Shannon’s mother, Kelly, said she was touched when she heard the song, as it showed her that her daughter was turning a negative into a positive.
“She took her pain and wrote a song about it instead of doing other things that some kids could do,” Kelly said. “Kids are becoming depressed. You see shootings on the news or they are cutting or killing themselves all because they are not accepted.”
But like Susie and other bullying victims, including Michigan teen Whitney Kropp, whose classmates at Ogemaw Heights High School recently nominated her to the Homecoming Court as a prank, are shining through the drama.
For Kropp, members of her community reached out in support, some of them donating styling services and even a gown for her to wear to the dance. Similarly, people have offered Susie support.
Also pursuing a career in acting and modeling, Susie recently starred in an independent film, “Ashes of the Phoenix.” After hearing Susie’s story, the film’s casting director, Avery Fields of Fields of Gold Productions, offered to shoot a music video for “Inspirational” at no cost, with Kelly producing the video.
From there, local entities such as Bishop Hendricken High School, Triple Threat Performing Arts Center, ShoDan Karate and Jordan’s Furniture in the Warwick Mall opened their doors so Susie would have settings for filming.
Throughout the 3-minute-26-second video, viewers see and hear Susie singing her anti-bullying anthem in the hallways of Hendricken, as well as rocking out for fans during concert scenes at the other venues.
“We used rope and benches to make it look like a real stage,” Susie said.
Further, Kelly said many of the children at Triple Threat Performing Arts have been compassionate to Susie’s situation, as many of them are also bullied.
“They all rallied around her when they found out what happened to her,” said Kelly. “She blossomed there because people understood and heard her and supported this video.”
The video debuted last weekend on YouTube, which can be accessed by typing “Susie Shannon” and “Inspirational” in the search field. Since it’s premiere, Kelly said she has received several emails and messages on Facebook from parents who say they appreciate Susie’s efforts because their children have also been bullied.
This brings Susie joy because comforting other children is the ultimate goal. Revenge, said Kelly, is not a factor. By the end of the video, which had 3,030 views at press time, Susie reaches a hand out to the bully figure.
“This song is not about hurting anyone – it’s about building her up and helping other people,” she said.
The video coincides with a documentary that will soon be released. It features people from Warwick and Coventry giving testimonials of their experiences with bullying, as well as general facts and statistics.
“For Susie to hear so many other students talk about it made her realize she wasn’t the only one,” Kelly said.
Kelly also said she and Susie are grateful to Hoxsie principal Gary McCoombs for giving students a special motto: “You don’t have to like everybody but you have to respect them.”
“He’s tried very hard to get the kids to realize that you don’t have to be best friends but you have to be kind to each other,” said Kelly. “He brings in a lot of resources to talk on the subject of bullying. He really cares about the kids at this school.”
For Susie, making music and starring in her own video is a lot of fun. She enjoys the spotlight and is hoping to land more acting roles in addition to being a musician. She hopes to follow in the footsteps of her favorite celebrities, such as Justin Bieber, Victoria Justice and Miranda Cosgrove.
Last year, she completed a six-month course at Barbizon Acting and Modeling Center and most Saturdays she travels to New York City for acting classes. She’s looking forward to January in three months for pilot season, a period when producers submit new movies and audition actors and actresses.
Susie has been singing since she was 3, and started recording when she was 5, as Kelly, also a vocalist, has released a handful of Christian Contemporary albums through the years.
“It’s fun being on the other side watching someone else do it, especially when it’s your daughter,” Kelly said. These days, Susie takes vocal lessons from Kim Wood Sandusky, who also coaches singing sensation Beyoncé. Susie learned to play guitar when she was 7 and takes lessons at Dan’s Music.
“It’s what all rockers do,” she said of her desire to play guitar. “I like learning new chords because sometimes it can be a challenge. Singing and playing guitar are always both so much fun to do.”
When she’s not kicking back with her guitar, she’s practicing karate at ShoDan, where she is a black belt. She also takes jazz and hip-hop classes every Thursday at Triple Threat.