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First AFA graduate on her way to VCU to study vocal performance

Emma Tracy started taking voice lessons at age 12. Today she is a college graduate who has parlayed her love of singing into a college degree.

Tracy, 23, became Tidewater Community College’s first graduate to earn an Associate of Fine Arts in Music when she walked across the stage at the Ted Constant Convocation Center on May 12.

“I found that I really didn’t have any other interests or anything else I’m good at except my music,” Tracy said. “It feels great forging this path for other students to follow.”

The Maury High School graduate attended the Governor’s School for the Arts. Tracy came to TCC the first time right out of Maury High and the Governor School for the Arts. The honors graduate struggled with mental health issues initially at TCC, where she failed her early classes.

She returned to the college in spring 2017 to retake courses and start anew.

Emma Tracy performing with TCC's Blue Moon Jazz ensemble at the Norfolk Campus.
Emma Tracy performing with TCC’s Blue Moon Jazz ensemble at the Norfolk Campus.

“I wish I’d known about the support services available for students the first time I was here,” she said. “I’ve learned that everyone here is rooting for you and wants you to succeed.”

Tracy refined and expanded her performances skills at TCC by participating in ensembles and TCC Chorus.

A classical singer who enjoys opera, Tracy discovered jazz singing by joining TCC’s Blue Moon Jazz ensemble. She enjoyed performing with the group so much that she is taking the class again this summer.

“The music program here is such a great community,” she said. “I made so many friends and we help each other out.”

Tracy credits Mark Denison, music program head, and staffer Jeannette Winsor for their support.

Tracy will attend Virginia Commonwealth University to pursue a bachelor’s in vocal performance and hopes to later work toward a master’s in music performance.

“In the music field, you definitely need a degree unless you are some YouTube star, but even then, formal training is really necessary,” she said.

Married to Jesse Ingle who is in the Navy, Tracy spends her free time playing guitar and piano and singing. She also enjoys fitness and spending time with her three cats and her dog named Teddy.

For students pursuing a similar path, she advises, “Don’t be afraid to do what you love. Communicate with your professors. If you have a problem, let them know right away. And don’t ignore your mental health. If you need help – get it.”

TCC to celebrate spring commencement on May 12

Del. Cheryl Turpin will be the keynote speaker for Tidewater Community College’s 66th Commencement Exercises on May 12 at the Ted Constant Convocation Center.

Commencement, which begins at 2 p.m., will be streamed live at

Del. Cheryl Turpin
Del. Cheryl Turpin

More than 1,300 will graduate, including several students who have earned degrees or certificates one month before completing high school thanks to dual enrollment.

Jaylyn Richard of Norcom High and Gabrielle Hutchings of Churchland High are recipients of the Associate of Science in Science. Churchland’s Brandi Porter will receive her Associate of Science in Social Sciences. Jay Sellers, homeschooled, earned his Associate of Science in General Studies. The four students will wear Governor’s Medallions as part of their academic regalia.

Wilson High’s Alyssa Shepherd and Christopher Newbill will receive Career Studies Certificates in Maritime Welding.

Five students from Chesapeake earned Career Studies Certificates in Electrical Wiring for Technicians. They are Zachary Booker (Western Branch), Hunter Edward (Deep Creek), Brandon Halloran (Oscar Smith), Christian Keifer (Grassfield) and Jalem Wilson (Great Bridge).

Turpin, elected to the Virginia House of Delegates last November, has more than 25 years of teaching experience as a Virginia Beach educator. She has spent the last nine years teaching Advanced Placement environmental science at Cox High School. She graduated with her master’s in education from the University of Virginia after completing her bachelor’s at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Student speaker Tony Sawyer, once a high school dropout, will graduate with his Associate of Science in Social Sciences. The Chesapeake resident will attend the honors college at Old Dominion University this fall to work toward a bachelor’s in human services.

TCC will award a posthumous Career Studies Certificate in Automotive Chassis Systems to Jordan McNair of Virginia Beach. McNair, 20, died in a car crash last August.