Marion McNeill, who worked on the Conservatoire acting course at Queen Margaret University (QMU) and taught more than 300 students over the course of her career, passed away on Tuesday morning at the age of 52.
A treasured teacher and renowned voice coach, some of Marion’s former pupils included the West End stars of sell-out shows such as The Lion King, Les Miserables and Billy Elliot.
Today, friends and colleagues spoke of their “deep, deep shock” at the loss of a woman they described as a “ray of sunshine”.
Robin Wilson, the university’s programme leader for acting for stage and screen and a colleague of Marion’s for the last ten years, said staff and students at QMU were “absolutely devastated” by the loss.
He said: “She lit up the room, we all loved her. She was born to teach, but she had other strings to her bow as well. She was a singer and performer in her own right.
“The students absolutely loved her, she was just such a livewire and really connected with them.
“She had a theatrical pizzazz and a real love for life. She was a ray of sunshine always – always on and always positive. She never brought any baggage to her work.
“She was a real character and the students loved her for it.”
Catherine Owen, main voice coach at the QMU for 19 years, said: “Marion was an inspired teacher. Her gift was in the way she guided singers to dig deep into the emotional content of a song and to communicate it with simplicity, sincerity and strength.”
Originally trained as an opera singer, Marion later turned to musical theatre and joined the staff of QMU in the 1990s.
She tutored students on the acting and performance programme, the drama and performance programme and acting for stage and screen – a joint course with Edinburgh Napier University.
And as well as teaching, she was a singer and professional voice coach for MGA Academy of Performing Arts, Dundee Rep Theatre, Grid Iron Theatre and the Lyceum Theatre.
After developing breast cancer in 2004, Marion went on to make a full recovery, but the disease would return for a final time in October 2013.
Former pupil Bryan Lowe, who has appeared in TV shows Waking the Dead and Rebus, as well as the 2008 film Stone of Destiny, said: “She was one of the best singing teachers I have ever come across and had a knack of putting you at ease right away.”
Marion is survived by husband Graham McNeill and her stepson.