Regis professor’s music helps late alumna live on

Hours after learning about the death of a talented former Regis music student in 2017, Loretta Notareschi sat down at her piano to write a song commissioned for a women’s choir.

“I was really upset, and I knew I had to write this piece,” said Notareschi, a Fine and Performing Arts professor at Regis. “And somehow, I sat down to write it, and I thought of her and what words I wanted to write … I did the initial draft in 45 minutes.”

For Notareschi, songs almost never come together that quickly. But she felt connected to Emily Manion Roebken’s story.

The first graduate of the Regis Music Performance program in 2007, Manion Roebken had won the television competition show Ed McMahon’s Next Big Star in the musical theater category as a teenager. As a freshman at Regis, she scored the lead role of Maria in West Side Story and went onto attract audiences so large that directors had to turn people away. Her talents could have taken her to Broadway and Hollywood, but Manion Roebken preferred Denver. Here, she performed in her church choir, earned an education master’s degree at Regis, became a kindergarten and music teacher and started a family with her husband, Todd Roebken.

Pregnant with her second child, Manion Roebken died by suicide Nov. 1, 2017 after a struggle with depression linked to her pregnancy and a medication she was taking at the time. Manion Roebken’s parents, Mike and Karen Manion, said 1,200 people attended their daughter’s funeral.

After Manion Roebken died, the Regis Music Program dedicated its spring 2018 recital to her memory, including a performance of So Live!, Notareschi’s melancholy yet hopeful song. Some of the lyrics read:


Fear not the world’s sorrow.

Sadness colors every life. And every life knows joy.

Not unending, as we wish, but in measure.

So live! Let your joy shine from you.


View a recording of the song. Since the premiere of the song in 2018, it has taken on a new life. Most recently, the song was performed by the Women’s Choir of Buffalo, N.Y., on Nov. 14.

Notareschi did not teach Manion Roebken at Regis, but knew her through the Regis Chapel Choir. Her story resonated with Notareschi, who struggled with maternal mental illness after the birth of her daughter.

“In my case, it was postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder, which is a really terrible disease that causes you to have intrusive thoughts about not only hurting your child, but also hurting yourself,” she said. “So, I had a lot of self-harm and suicidal ideation around the time of my own pregnancy, which was earlier than hers.”

Manion Roebken’s parents said their daughter's struggle started when she became pregnant with her second child and worsened after she was a prescribed a medication to treat hyperemesis gravidarum, severe nausea and vomiting that pregnant women sometimes experience. She couldn’t sleep. She asked her parents to move in with her, sought psychiatric help and made several trips to the emergency room.

Notareschi considers herself lucky: During the worst of her struggle with OCD, she was referred to the Healthy Expectations Center at Children’s Hospital Colorado, a center for maternal mental health.

“I sort of had the opposite experience (from Emily),” Notareschi said. “I was suffering and I got help right away, whereas she was suffering and she wasn’t getting the help she needed and it was so terrible.”

After seeking treatment, Notareschi went to therapy and received medication that helped. Her symptoms receded after about one year. Today, she still experiences anxiety at times, but no longer suffers from OCD.

Four years after her death, Manion Roebken’s memory lives on through her family. Her parents said her son, Ryan, 5, just started piano lessons with the same teacher who taught Manion Roebken.

“We have a million video tapes. We taped everything, so he is going to know his mom,” Karen Manion said. “And he’s going to learn from watching all of those.”


If you or someone you know is experiencing thoughts of suicide, connect with Colorado Crisis Services. The service offers free and confidential support via phone, text and walk-in crisis centers. Their 24/7 hotline can be reached at 1-844-493-8255, as well as via text. Text “TALK” to 38255. Find the nearest walk-in crisis center here.

Learn more about the Healthy Expectations Perinatal Mental Health Program at Children’s Hospital Colorado here.