“A Night at the Meyerson changed everything for me,” says Rolando Lerma, senior music education major at Southwestern Adventist University (SWAU). During his senior year of high school, Lerma’s intention was to enroll at SWAU as a pre-law student. Then he heard SWAU’s University Singers perform for the university’s annual Night at the Meyerson, and he knew his trajectory had changed.
“I wanted to be where they were,” he says.
The Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center is a 2,062-seat performing arts venue located in Dallas. For nearly three decades, SWAU’s Department of Music has been hosting the Southwestern Music Festival which cumulates with A Night at the Meyerson. The weekend event provides talented high school junior and senior musicians with a unique opportunity to learn from perform alongside university musicians and leading professional composers and musicians in a state-of-the-art venue.
“It was so amazing,” adds Sara Kennedy, freshman vocal performance major. “Those nights at the Meyerson over the years were the best of my life and they’re why I decided to come to SWAU. It’s a beautiful space to perform in, and everyone works so hard in the days leading up to it; it’s an amazing feeling to come together like that and make beautiful music. The more time I spend here at SWAU, the more confident I am that this is where God wants me,” she says.
Beatriz Miraflor came to SWAU as a pre-med major, but knew she wanted to keep music as part of her life. A Night at the Meyerson gave her a chance to get to know other students and she discovered many of the university’s ensemble members are studying for non-music degrees.
“When I realized it would be possible to pursue my career path and enjoy being part of music, too, I had to do it,” Miraflor says. “In music, everyone comes together for a common goal. We’re all studying different things, but we share a level of commitment to music that brings us together in a powerful way.”
Lerma admits studying music may be intimidating to someone who doesn’t know much about classical music. But, he adds, it’s not all Bach and Beethoven.
“We don’t restrict ourselves to one genre,” he asserts. “There’s definitely room to explore other things, and our ensembles do a variety of styles. But it’s important for musicians to understand classical music because a lot of today’s music can be traced back to it, and it’s a solid foundation to exploring all music. I absolutely love discovering the correlations between techniques in classical music and modern musicians from Whitney Houston to Beyoncé.”
Miraflor points out that many students are involved in more than one ensemble, giving them an opportunity to explore a diverse range of styles and genres. She also mentions that just because they have all committed to performing in university-level ensembles doesn’t mean that’s all they enjoy.
“The common denominator for musicians is that we enjoy and appreciate a lot of styles, “she shares. “And whatever music we make, we love making it together.”
A Night at the Meyerson was established with the sole purpose of bringing musicians together and it’s an incredible opportunity for students to meet peers who share their interests and passions; peers who may end up being their classmates at SWAU.
“I’ve made some really amazing friends I’ll have for the rest of my life,” says Kennedy, “and it all started at the Meyerson. All the SWAU musicians were welcoming and warm, and it made the transition to college so much easier. It’s wonderful to have friends who are as passionate about God and making music as I am.”
It’s easier to build friendships when you have shared experiences, and preparing for the same exciting performance, squeezing lessons and rehearsals between biology labs, and writing English papers, and traveling on music tours together are the stuff memories are made of.
“In high school I struggled a little socially because no one really understood my passions and interests,” Lerma shares. “When I got to SWAU, I found a big group of music nerds and we’re all one big family now, even outside of the department. We go out for boba together, struggle through the same exams, and sit together at vespers. I’ve truly found my people here.”
Any college student quickly learns time management is crucial to academic success, and students involved in music find this extra important. The trick to making it work, says Miraflor, is enjoying what you do.
“Even when we’re rehearsing, I feel like I’m hanging out with friends,” she explains. “I’m selective about what I put my time and effort toward. There are good people here–great students and amazing professors–and I truly love being part of this department.”