Stepping into Tradition
The winter of 2023 was one of Utah’s longest on record. Luckily for members of the BYU Folk Dance Ensemble, they had the promise of adventures in Hungary, Austria, and Czechia to look forward to. Following their departure on June 7, the Folk Dance Ensemble spent three weeks participating in two of the most renowned folk dance festivals, enjoying delicious foods, and making new friends. The group’s first stop was the 28th annual Danube Carnival, where the ensemble joined some of Hungary’s best dancers and musicians as one of three international performing groups. Although their performance schedule was strenuous, the BYU group treasured the opportunity to share traditional American dances with enthusiastic audiences. One member of the ensemble says, “My greatest satisfaction came from the relationships I was able to make with members of the other ensembles. I don’t think it would have been enough just to perform with them—opportunities to teach other dances, learn from them, and have fun together were extremely valuable.” After several busy days at the carnival, the ensemble traveled to Vienna and spent the weekend exploring the famous city, enjoying a church service, and attending a fantastic concert by the well-known Schönbrunn Palace Orchestra. Following their time in Vienna, the group departed for their second festival: the Strážnice International Folklore Festival, known for being the second-oldest folklore festival in Czechia. In addition to performing, the group spent their last week in Europe participating in community outreaches. They performed for schools and for senior centers, as well as in a Catholic mass alongside dance and music groups from South Korea, Hungary, and the Netherlands. To celebrate the end of a demanding yet successful tour, the Folk Dance Ensemble explored Prague—walking famed cobblestone streets, touring the castle district, and enjoying the rich history of the city—before their long flight back to Utah.
American Folk Dance Ensemble
In early May, BYU Living Legends kicked off their summer by heading overseas to breathtaking New Zealand. Their first day in Auckland started with a special performance for the Pacific Area Office of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. News media professionals were also present at the performance and interviewed several of the students about their performing experiences and cultural heritage. For the rest of the week, Living Legends students spent their time hosting outreaches at the Auckland University of Technology and the Manukau Stake, learning about local history, and performing at venues and high schools in the area. In addition to a VIP reception and performance for local dignitaries at the Aotea Centre, another memorable experience occurred during the group’s tour of Oneroa, the main township on Waiheke Island. After enjoying fish and chips at a restaurant called The Local, Living Legends sang a song for the restaurant staff. One of the restaurant owners told group members, “The singing was the most special moment we have experienced during our nine years of owning The Local. It was very emotional for us both and a memory that will stay with us for quite some time.” The group’s second week was filled with shows and outreaches, concluding with a performance at the Wellington Opera House, with Elder K. Brett Nattress of the Pacific Area Presidency and several ambassadors in attendance. When their time in New Zealand came to an end, Living Legends departed for the island of Tahiti in French Polynesia, where highlights included hosting an outreach activity with Mayor Tearii Te Moana Alpha of Teva I Uta for local primary school students and performing twice at the Grand Théâtre in Papeete. After Living Legends took final bows, community leaders presented the dancers with gifts. “After our last performance, we were treated to a farewell song by our audience in Tahiti,” one student performer says. “It felt right and complete. The Spirit brought there through love was truly amazing.” That unity and appreciation reflected the warmth that members of Living Legends felt in their hearts throughout the trip. They will forever cherish the memories they made during their three weeks abroad.
Uniting Hearts and Giving Back
Rather than dive right into performing, the BYU Wind Symphony spent their first day in Portugal climbing turrets, hiking through labyrinths, and admiring statues and fountains of royalty in the hilltops of Sintra. The ensemble performed twice that weekend and put on their Saturday show in the chapel located on the grounds of the Lisbon Portugal Temple. The concert was such a success that the audience gave four standing ovations. After spending two days on the road making their way to Barcelona, the group experienced one of the highlights of their tour: performing at the Palau de la Música Catalana, one of the most renowned attractions in Barcelona and an icon of Catalan modernist architecture. The Wind Symphony donated all ticket sales to two local organizations that work with people who have issues with hearing, vision, or mental health. The group ended their second week on tour with another concert, numerous cultural excursions, and a visit to the Madrid Spain Temple under their belts. The group’s last week overseas was bittersweet. They started their Monday off exploring Plaza Mayor and Retiro Park. After their adventurous morning, the group departed for the Teatro EDP Gran Vía to perform their final concert, where the attendee line extended far up the parkway. One member of the symphony says, “The thing I’m going to remember the most is the people. One woman came up to me after a concert and said, with tears in her eyes, ‘Me sentí la música en mi corazón,’ which means, ‘I felt the music in my heart.’ I have never been able to see before just how music can unite people from all corners of the earth.” The Wind Symphony spent their last day volunteering at the Fundación Madrina, organizing donations and preparing the facilities to accept new expectant mothers—a top tour experience for the students. With their diverse itinerary and many concerts complete, the group prepared for their long flight home—hearts filled with treasured memories from their time abroad.
On May 2, Vocal Point took three flights, totaling more than 24 hours, to arrive in Manila and kick off their three-week tour in nine cities across the Philippines. Thursday morning the group hit the ground running with a visit to GMA Network Studios to appear on the noontime game show TiktoClock, where Vocal Point members played several rounds of musical chairs. The show culminated in the group singing “Permission to Dance” by BTS. The group also gave interviews on morning shows for CNN Philippines and GMA. Despite the television fun, the highlight of Vocal Point’s first week was meeting with the Mabuhay Deseret Foundation. The organization works with local doctors to facilitate the provision of life-changing cleft surgeries, eye surgeries, clubfoot corrections, and prosthetics for thousands of people in the Philippines every year. Vocal Point spent the afternoon getting to know the workers, children, and patients involved and were pleased to donate the proceeds of their sold-out show to the foundation. Vocal Point’s second week was jam-packed with television appearances, travel, service, and performances. On Wednesday, the group set up at their largest concert venue of the tour: the Baguio Convention and Cultural Center. Audience members lined up for two blocks to get into the concert. With 1,750 attendees, the concert was full of energy—so full, in fact, that security stood in front of the stage to prevent crowds from rushing it. Toward the end of their tour, Vocal Point sang “Nearer, My God, to Thee” for employees at Dumaguete City Hall. The mayor was so impressed, he asked for 100 tickets to the group’s performance that evening. Following a brief trip to enjoy the gorgeous white beaches and cloudless skies of Bohol’s Virgin Island, Vocal Point flew back to Manila to perform for the Mission Leadership Seminar. Vocalist Seth Garff says, “My most spiritual experience was when we performed for the mission presidents. It was our last show of the tour, and my last show in general. I was extremely touched by how kind they were to us. It really made the trip worth it.”
Talents and Teamwork
Channeling the power of music and the spirit of adventure, the BYU Singers departed in May for a week-long tour through Idaho, Washington, and Oregon. As usual, their itinerary was packed with performances, workshops, and opportunities to engage with local communities—a harmonious blend of music, education, and service. The BYU Singers started off their first day of tour with a performance at the Cathedral of the Rockies in Boise, where they were joined by the Rocky Mountain High School Choir. They made their next stop in Kennewick, where the group enjoyed a day filled with workshops, rehearsals, and more opportunities to connect with high school students. The evening culminated in another outstanding performance. The BYU Singers met as many audience members as possible before loading the bus and retiring for the night. In Spokane, the ensemble teamed up with Gonzaga University students to participate in a choral workshop and give a combined evening concert. Working together was such a success that both groups agreed that BYU and Gonzaga performing arts students should collaborate again. Later in the week, the ensemble performed in Bellevue to an audience of BYU choir alumni. BYU Singers bass David Kime says, “From the beginning it felt the choir was electrified. Heaven felt especially close during ‘I Am a Child of God’ and ‘How Firm a Foundation,’ with the Spirit touching both the choir and audience.” The BYU Singers made their final stop in Portland. In the City of Roses, they partnered with JustServe and local senior missionaries to make posters and cards welcoming immigrants to the US. The group closed their day with another successful concert before making their way back to Utah, completing their journey of sweet memories, beautiful places, and new friendships. The tour was a testament to the dedication of the BYU Singers, the guidance of the choir’s leaders, and the unifying impact that music can have on people of different communities and cultures.
The BYU Ballroom Dance Company was the first of three performance groups to depart for a department-sponsored academic tour abroad during the summer of 2023. Their travels took them back to the prestigious British Championships at the Blackpool Dance Festival, where BYU has previously competed. The company’s hard work was rewarded when their two numbers, “Fiddler on the Roof” and “Somebody to Love,” resulted in two first-place awards. Afterward, Gary McDonald from the National Dance Council of America remarked, “BYU’s performance to a packed house was electric, resulting in a rare standing ovation. BYU continues to set the standard for competitive formation dancing.” After their wins in Blackpool, the Ballroom Dance Company headed to Brussels, Belgium, to unveil their show Rhythm at the Royal Flemish Theatre to an audience of European Union ambassadors and global dignitaries. The dance company’s trip, hosted by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, marked the fifth visit of a BYU performing ensemble to Brussels in recent years. Their performance tapped into the power that dance has to connect people from different corners of the world. All in all, it was a fitting way to end a successful tour. In July, the BYU Cougarettes traveled overseas to compete at the World Dance Movement, an international dance festival in Castellana Grotte, Italy. The Cougarettes received an Innovative Choreography award for their performance of “Comes in Waves” and took home the award for Dance Group of the Year, which was the highest overall award given to a performing group at the event. The ensemble rubbed shoulders with dancers from numerous countries through workshop classes in Castellana Grotte, which ended with all the dancers sharing the stage to put on one last performance, the result of their hard work. The Cougarettes also made a stop in France, where they experienced one of the spiritual highs of the trip: a visit to the Résidis refugee center in Paris. The group spent the day dancing, singing, and getting to know the families there. Abbi Kelley Slade, 2022–23 team president, says, “It was so special to see how humble and grateful they were for the littlest things. Something so little to us meant so much to them.” Finally, near the end of the summer, the BYU Young Ambassadors embarked on a tour to the United Kingdom. From July 31 to August 16, the group performed their show Thank You for the Music at Surgeons’ Hall Grand Theatre, hosted by theSpaceUK as part of Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Scotland’s Fringe is credited as the largest performing arts festival in the world, and the ensemble was honored to be included for the first time. Highlights of their time included filming three music videos, selling out all of their shows, learning history and customs in a foreign country, and performing at devotionals for the stakes in Edinburgh and London. One student reflects, “Socially and spiritually, I learned that I can find belonging anywhere and that there are kind and Christlike people everywhere. Edinburgh and London are so welcoming. I felt love from the people we met—and felt my own love for them.”
Ballroom Dance Company
Welcome Carson Trautman
BYU Performing Arts Management is pleased to welcome Carson Trautman as the artistic director for their acclaimed a cappella groups, Noteworthy and Vocal Point. Trautman is a former member of Vocal Point, and his experience helping to create a successful performing group makes him a valuable addition to the team. An alumnus of Brigham Young University, Trautman graduated in 2022 with a bachelor’s degree in marketing from BYU Marriott. While has was a student, he worked as the lead marketing strategist for Vocal Point and collaborated with dozens of top-tier artists including Ben Rector, David Archuleta, and Peter Hollens. After graduating, Trautman served as the music director and producer for the renowned Rise Up Children’s Choir and was nominated for an LDS Praiseworthy award for his collaboration with Mat and Savanna Shaw in December 2022. He spent only six months away from Vocal Point before signing on as the new artistic director. Trautman will be taking over from previous directors Amy Geis and McKay Crockett and is grateful for their hard work and dedication to the groups. The newly appointed director is acutely aware of the massive impact Noteworthy and Vocal Point have on millions around the world, and he is thrilled to push these two brands to new horizons. “We live in a world where there is so much dissonance, especially on the internet,” Trautman says. “We need more selfless artists to create light that combats the polarizing darkness of today. That’s what we’re trying to accomplish in Vocal Point and Noteworthy this upcoming year.”
Noteworthy & Vocal Point