Department of Music Provides Excellence in Education and Experience

Department of Music Provides Excellence in Education and Experience

Brisa Ramirez

The Department of Music at Southwestern Adventist University excels in the areas of music education and performance. The program is led by talented and dedicated professors who value learning opportunities that provide experience through performance locally and abroad. In a typical year, SWAU hosts over 30 performances on campus at Wharton Auditorium, in addition to invitations to perform from a variety of venues and an annual music festival held at the Meyerson Symphony Center in Dallas.
Sofia Torres (freshman, voice), Kelsey Johnson (junior, organ) and Rolando Lerma (junior, music education) are three music students who have benefitted from the music department’s outstanding professors, ensembles and performance opportunities.

For Sofia Torres, the SWAU experience is just getting started. She remembers meeting choral director Jonathan Wall during a visit last year and being impacted by his expertise and approach to music education. As an aspiring university choral director herself, Torres has found a great mentor in Wall. Wall played a pivotal role in her decision to attend the university. “I had attended Music Fest every year, and [Professor Wall] shared with me that he wished I would attend SWAU. The more I saw what he was doing for the choir, the more I felt the desire to come here as a student. I have not been disappointed in the experience. Wall and the other professors are so dedicated and focused on providing us with unique opportunities.” Torres also shared that she appreciates the family atmosphere that exists among fellow students regardless of year or major. 

Kelsey Johnson shares an appreciation for the family atmosphere within the department. Johnson chose to attend SWAU because of the personalized learning that has been prioritized for music students. Prior to enrolling, Johnson heard about the countless opportunities that SWAU offers for music students to perform on campus as well as across the DFW Metroplex. “The fact that the faculty go above and beyond to make sure we graduate with real world performance experience was definitely a selling point,” she shares. “My professors have helped me become involved in local churches and even organized an outdoor organ recital for me this past semester.”

Rolando Lerma first experienced the personal attentiveness of his future professors as a high school student while attending the annual Meyerson Music Festival. Lerma was approached by department chair, Dr. Devon Howard. Howard had heard that Lerma played the saxophone and invited him to join the university saxophone ensemble. “Being noticed made it clear to me that SWAU professors had an interest in my success,” he shares. “It made me excited to be able to soon attend SWAU and have these professors continue to teach me.”

Since this initial experience, Lerma has been able to increase his experience not only with the saxophone but also with guitar and with music education. Currently in his third year at SWAU, he has several guitar students of his own and can apply the knowledge he has gained from his professors as he serves as an instructor. 

Even through a pandemic, the focus of the Department of Music continues to be how to best serve students. This year has presented unique challenges that have required innovative and flexible solutions to continue providing music students with high-quality experiences. The usual myriad of in-person concerts by SWAU ensembles have been replaced with outdoor concerts and physically distanced recorded performances. 

The reduced performance schedule has also provided an opportunity to complete a much-needed renovation of Wharton Auditorium. The project began during the extended winter break and is nearing completion. The space has been refreshed through a new color palette, upgraded chairs, fresh carpet and energy-efficient lighting. As a primary performance space on campus, this project has been highly anticipated by students like Lerma who shares, “I look forward to seeing the completed renovations and to performing in this space again when possible and am appreciative to the generous donors that made these renovations possible.” The Department of Music looks forward to taking the stage at Wharton Auditorium again.  

In music, experience and education go hand in hand. The Department of Music at Southwestern Adventist University provides the resources needed for high quality performance, talented professors that deliver a personal experience and a Christ centered atmosphere that enhances education. 

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