On the evening of Sunday February 9, over 1,500 patrons took their seats at the impressive Morton H. Meyerson Symphony center and were welcomed by University President Ken Shaw and State Representative Dewayne Burns. The audience had not come to one of the world’s greatest orchestra halls to hear the professional performers of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra; they anxiously anticipated the splendid culmination of the five-day Music Festival orchestrated by Southwestern Adventist University.
The Music Festival attracted around 250 high school students from 30 different high schools across the country to the campus of Southwestern Adventist University to engage in intensive music education, spiritual development and community building. The Festival began the previous Wednesday evening with a showcase performance by 12 talented music scholarship finalists, all high school juniors or seniors. Each of these young musicians performed challenging pieces, showcasing their hard work and dedication to their craft. Kyle Mather, a scholarship finalist from Tulsa, Oklahoma, has been playing the cello since the seventh grade. Mather has participated in the festival for the past four years and is planning on further developing his musical talents as a freshman at the University next year. When asked about why he chose Southwestern Adventist University, he explained, “I really enjoy the professors in the music department and the teaching that they do there.”
Mather is not the only student who has been deeply impacted by the Music Festival. Lindsey Johnson, a senior music major at the University, stated that “the Music Festival experience was absolutely the primary reason I chose to attend Southwestern.” Though this year was Johnson’s eighth year to participate in the Music Festival, she says that each year “has brought something new and exciting.” She especially enjoys A Night at the Meyerson concert at the end of the Festival.
The concert at the Meyerson is when the University gets to bring the Music Festival to the DFW community. High school and college students are given the chance to perform on a grand stage alongside world-class professional musicians. This year the students were joined by professional saxophonists Dr. William Chien and Dr. Scott Campbell, as well as distinguished violinist Cármelo de los Santos. Each of the 12 scholarship finalists were recognized for their accomplishment on stage. Mather, who said that he has not been publicly recognized like that before, described the recognition as both “weird” and “very satisfying.”
Each year, Southwestern Adventist University commissions world premieres by renowned composers. This year, A Night at the Meyerson featured a premiere for organ and saxophone by Yaming Hsu and an original arrangement of “I’ll Fly Away” by Dr. Brandon Boyd, Assistant Director of Choral Activities and Assistant Professor of Choral Music Education at the University of Missouri. Johnson explains that having the opportunity to learn and perform original music written for A Night at the Meyerson, and actually working with the composer to bring it to life, is “possibly the deepest connection one can have to music.”
Students were not the only ones impacted by the experience. Composer Dr. Boyd expressed his enjoyment of the event, as well, stating that the concert was a beautiful “marriage of music and spirituality.” He elaborated that he found it easy to connect with the students and it was refreshing to see that those in charge of the event were completely devoted to the music and the University. This year was the 27th annual Music Festival hosted by Southwestern Adventist University and the concert at the Meyerson drew its largest crowd to date. The faculty and staff at the University are confident that the program will continue to bless both students and community members for many years to come.