Fall 2019

Fostering Friendships in China

Over the past 40 years, BYU has developed a strong relationship with the People’s Republic of China. In 1979 BYU sent the Young Ambassadors and a few members of the Lamanite Generation, now known as Living Legends, to Beijing. This first performance began a relationship that has allowed many other BYU performing groups to perform in China over the years. This year, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of that first tour, BYU put together its largest tour group yet to perform internationally. More than 200 students, faculty, tour managers, and production staff traveled to Beijing, Xi’an, and Shanghai to perform their show, BYU Spectacular in China. Backed by the music of the BYU Chamber Orchestra, performing groups Vocal Point, the Young Ambassadors, Living Legends, International Folk Dance Ensemble, an alumni couple from the Ballroom Dance Company, the Cougarettes, and the Dunk Team delivered vibrant and energetic performances that evoked the love of friendship, family, and ancestors. When they weren’t performing, China Spectacular group members visited cultural sites, met new people, and learned about the history and culture of China. BYU worked with longtime friend China Performing Arts Agency to provide service to the people of China, give out thousands of BYU shirts and mini basketballs, and make memories that will last a lifetime. AN EXCHANGE WITH THE CENTRAL CONSERVATORY OF MUSIC Four days before BYU’s first performance in Beijing, the BYU Chamber Orchestra arrived in China early in order to perform at the Central Conservatory of Music. As part of this music exchange, top professors from the conservatory traveled to BYU and presented four newly debuted pieces for an audience at the de Jong Concert Hall. While in Beijing, the BYU Chamber Orchestra did the same thing, learning with top professors from the conservatory and presenting a concert of newly debuted music for a packed audience. “Collaboration makes art so much more interesting as a musician and creator,” says Chamber Orchestra member Caleb Rhoton. “Collaborating with these artists was possibly one of the single greatest moments so far. They were absolutely fantastic.” DANCING WITH MINZU UNIVERSITY The shared artistic friendship between BYU and China—built over the decades through various interactions—was bolstered again through cultural exchanges between performers in BYU’s International Folk Dance Ensemble and Minzu University of China’s dance program. In 2017 dancers from both organizations shared a rehearsal hall and stage for BYU’s Christmas Around the World show in Provo. Staying in town for a month, the Minzu University students learned about arts in the United States, rehearsed for the combined show, and displayed their unique dancing style to audiences during the performance. While in China for the 2019 BYU Spectacular, International Folk Dance Ensemble traveled to Minzu University, reuniting with friends and making new ones as they learned about the arts in China. “When we arrived [at the university], we started to cheer,” says International Folk Dance Ensemble member Julianne Binns. “It felt like everything had come full circle.”

Young Ambassadors

Chamber Orchestra

International Folk Dance Ensemble

Vocal Point

Living Legends

Ballroom Dance Company

Dancing in the Streets

The BYU Ballroom Dance Company danced their way through England, France, Belgium, Switzerland, and Spain this spring. And at the Blackpool Dance Festival in England, the Ballroom Dance Company won the British Latin Formation Championship and took second place in the British Ballroom Formation Championship. “I will never forget how I felt as the music began to thunder through the building and my sparkly ballroom heel hit the dance floor,” says BYU Latin dancer Autumn Hawkes. “The best part was feeling so fulfilled coming off the floor, knowing I’d just danced my best.” The greatest competition for BYU came from the Beijing Dance Academy from China. They presented a technically challenging routine with traditional Chinese discipline. In the Latin competition, BYU was the crowd favorite and also the judges’ choice for the top prize. In the Ballroom competition, the results were reversed, with Beijing Dance Academy taking the majority of first-place marks. “Our team focused on building more than just a dance routine. We did our best to create an amazing story,” says BYU Latin dancer Jaren Hopkin. “We put in the blood, sweat, and tears together as a team, which unified us.” United they won and united they enjoyed touring Europe. Dancing, eating gelato, more dancing, sightseeing, and more dancing filled the rest of the tour. The Ballroom Dance Company enjoyed their remaining time in the United Kingdom, which included a walking tour of Downham, a boating trip in the Lake District National Park, a tour of Warwick Castle, a stop at the Preston England Temple, and sightseeing in London. They left the United Kingdom by ferry and arrived in France, where they jived in front of the Eiffel Tower. Also in Paris, the group taught dance lessons to locals and performed at the Cirque d’Hiver Bouglione. The BYU Ballroom Dance Company members used horse stalls as dressing rooms at the venue because the Cirque d’Hiver Bouglione is a circus ring. “It was magical!” and “One word: amazing!” said audience members Melissa Cruz and Sara Laurent. Proceeds from the performances in both Paris and Le Chesnay, France, were given to refugees. The following performances were just as notable. In Brussels, Belgium, the Ballroom Dance Company performed for European Union officials and ambassadors from all over the world. In Geneva, Switzerland, the Ballroom Dance Company performed for their largest audience on tour. The group also took the opportunity to ride a cable car to the top of Aiguille du Midi in the French Alps. “Not only was this a breathtaking experience to see the landscape on the way up, but it was also a very spiritual experience,” says Hopkin. “I was very blessed to see some of God’s most amazing creations.” The group then returned to France and visited the ruins of a Roman amphitheater and the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière in Lyon. At the Lyon Cathedral, bystanders savored an impromptu dance number by the Ballroom Dance Company, who were accompanied by a local accordion player, Michael Chobatar. He was gifted a BYU Dance shirt to show the company’s appreciation. Another memorable impromptu street performance happened at the Miroir d’Eau, a reflecting pool and fountain in Bordeaux, France. Dancers looked picturesque as their movements were reflected in the water. One woman passing by even joined the dancers. “Dancing in the plaza inspired this older woman to join in the dance, without a care in the world. Pure joy lit up her face as she danced and twirled about,” says Hawkes. “I always love it when people find joy from watching us dance. It makes me smile to inspire them to dance as well.” The tour closed in Barcelona, Spain, with a performance, devotional, beach trip, and visit to the Basílica de la Sagrada Familia. At night, the Ballroom Dance Company took a turn as the audience by attending an authentic flamenco show. “I feel like the tour was a complete success and will be something that all team members reflect back on with a smile,” says Hawkes.

Ballroom Dance Company

World-Class Artists in the Caribbean

For three weeks in June and July, Synthesis toured Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and Cuba. The group enjoyed the rich musical history of the Caribbean as they gave performances, participated in music clinics, worked with several guest artists, and enriched the local community through outreach activities. In Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, Synthesis performed with jazz flautist Néstor Torres, who provided insight and a new understanding of music as he worked with the group. Other guest artists included Pavel Núñez, Orlando Valle, Lázaro Dagoberto, and Latin Grammy winner Ed Calle, who each shared different perspectives into the field of jazz. “Being able to work with these groups and people was absolutely fantastic,” says Synthesis director Ray Smith. “Connecting with these top minds in jazz was a deeply enlightening experience both for myself and for the students.” In addition to meeting with these professionals, Synthesis got to learn from and perform with many respected musical groups. Thanks to the efforts of the Cuban Ministry of Culture, Synthesis met internationally renowned artists from the Buena Vista Social Club. Synthesis also performed with the Carolina Municipality Jazz Band in Carolina, Puerto Rico, and the Joven Jazz youth band in Havana, Cuba. While in the Dominican Republic, the BYU group participated in music clinics at the Conservatorio Nacional de Música and the Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo, where band members learned more about Caribbean rhythms and Latin jazz. Some members of Synthesis also appeared on three radio shows in the Dominican Republic: El Mismo Golpe con Jochy, El Sol de la Mañana, and Música a las Doce. Synthesis visited a number of historical and cultural locations near the venues. One in particular was the Estudios Areito in Cuba, the home of Cuba’s oldest record label and the location where great jazz artists, like Nat King Cole, recorded previously. Other places they visited included Puerto Rico’s Arecibo Observatory (home to the second-largest radio telescope in the world) and La Fortaleza (home of the Puerto Rican governor and the oldest active executive mansion in the Western Hemisphere). Synthesis members also worked to fulfill the aims of a BYU education—notably, lifelong service and character building—by serving communities throughout their tour. Synthesis members performed for 300 inmates at La Victoria National Penitentiary in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. In another service activity, the BYU group helped at the Banco de Alimentos de Puerto Rico to count, organize, and sort merchandise to be donated locally. “We loved serving them,” says Smith. “However, we feel the greatest blessing is knowing the people we developed connections with during the tour. They are all just so good, and their love, I feel, will be our biggest takeaway.”


Love and Service in Brazil

Looking out over Brazil’s Iguaçu Falls, BYU Living Legends students paused to take in the beauty of the world’s largest waterfall system. This picture-perfect scene was only a small part of the three-week tour in May that traversed much of Brazil. Throughout the tour, Living Legends members shared their Native American, Polynesian, and Latin American heritages through song, dance, and service for community members and leaders. In three of the seven cities the group visited, their performances were groundbreaking because it was the first time a BYU student group performed there. Such was the case in the city of Foz do Iguaçu, near Iguaçu Falls. During the tour, Living Legends was able to connect with audiences by delivering the entire performance in Portuguese, with a combination of prerecorded narration and live vocals. They also provided a few free performances throughout the tour to make the show more accessible. This greater access for audience members allowed both performers and attendees to create a strong connection with each other. “The people of Brazil were extremely welcoming and so happy that we were there,” says Living Legends member Sunni Begay. “They were so humble and kind, and I looked forward to meeting them after every show. That part made the hard work worth it.” This international tour was an opportunity for BYU students to perform in some of the finest venues in the country yet still provide service along the way. One example of this service happened in Foz do Iguaçu. The local stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints collaborated with community leaders from the mayor’s office to allow audience members entrance to the show by exchanging one kilogram (about two pounds) of nonperishable food for one show ticket. “This performance was really special. So many people came to this concert; it was definitely one of our larger concerts,” says Begay. “People were excited to see the group come out of the curtains. And it was so loud! I was amazed at how people wanted to support such a great cause.” In other cities, Living Legends was able to make connections through cultural exchanges. In São Paulo, students visited the Associação Fernanda Bianchini, a special dance school for the blind. While there, group members were blindfolded and led through a dance number by visually impaired students to learn the process for how to dance while being visually impaired. In Manaus, the group visited an orphanage, where they danced, talked, and played with children ranging from the ages of 10 months to 12 years. “I loved getting to serve people,” says Living Legends member Ivan Hala‘ufia. “It’s one thing to perform and bring light that way, but it’s so much better being able to bring light person to person.”

Living Legends

Making History and Going International

Following the BYU Spectacular in China, Vocal Point traveled to Thailand on its first international solo tour. Vocal Point was excited for this monumental tour—and so were the diverse audience members. The a cappella group performed sold-out shows to audiences that contained Thai dignitaries, refugees, people with disabilities, and orphans. These audiences all responded the same: with joy. In Vocal Point’s 28 years, 130 group members have spent countless hours creating, building, and sharing positive music with as many people as possible. “Vocal Point is all about creating connections and helping people see that we’re all more alike than we are different,” says Vocal Point artistic director McKay Crockett. On the tour, Vocal Point helped at an outreach at the Good Shepherd Sisters of Bangkok, a school for refugees and orphans. Sister Louise, known as the Mother Teresa of Thailand, said of the visit, “The children haven’t smiled like this in a long time.” Children at the Father Ray Foundation in Pattaya, which runs a center for children and adults with disabilities, even took turns performing with Vocal Point. David Steele, a Vocal Point baritone, was especially touched when he interacted with an audience member with a disability. “I bent down to take a selfie with him and he got the biggest smile,” says Steele. “It just touched me to know that we were doing something unique with them.” “The singers spent more time posing for photos and signing their name than they did singing,” says Father Ray Foundation photographer Derek Franklin. After a special sold-out charity gala hosted by Lady MR Benchapa Krairiksh, Lady Benchapa took pictures with Vocal Point and asked the group to sing her a song. They sang “My Girl,” and during the song, Lady Benchapa and her sister both spontaneously started singing with Vocal Point. “The jam session with a princess of Thailand! Unreal,” says Vocal Point baritone Yaphet Bustos. “Check that off my bucket list.” From an impromptu jam session with a Thai princess to making countless faces smile, the tour to Thailand became a special mile marker in Vocal Point’s history. “Every single place that we traveled to, there was an immediate and special connection with these amazing people,” says Crockett. “What people really remember is the way you made them feel and the connections you have with them.”

Vocal Point

Texas Hospitality

Warmly welcomed with Southern hospitality, the BYU Wind Symphony toured through Texas in early May, visiting Fort Worth, Dallas, Houston, Austin, and San Antonio. While on tour they performed concerts in the local communities, participated in workshops, and visited popular tourist stops. They say everything is bigger in Texas, and the lively audiences in Texas lived up to the standard. “The audiences were really engaged in the concerts,” says clarinet player Emily Hardisty Smith. “When you can tell that they’re having a great time, it creates an energy throughout the band.” During a saxophone solo by the Wind Symphony’s Steven Hardy in one performance, the audience exploded with enthusiasm and support. “The audience erupted and clapped in the correct spots,” says Jason Bergman, BYU faculty member and guest soloist on the tour. “The moment was memorable, humorous, and really bonded with the audience.” While visiting the Dallas–Fort Worth area, the Wind Symphony worked with and mentored local students from Haltom, Allen, and Summit High Schools. The BYU group also took time away from the concert hall and visited the Fort Worth Stockyards, which included a cattle drive, gunfight reenactment, and guided walking tour. The adventure continued as the group stopped at Magnolia Market in Waco. The group enjoyed exploring the silos, vendors, and home decor. Later they traveled to Houston and had a blast at the Johnson Space Center. The Wind Symphony’s performances in the area were held at Cypress Springs High School and the University of Houston–Clear Lake. A few Wind Symphony members from Texas showed off big tourist destinations on the way to Austin: Buc-ee’s and the Blue Bell Creameries headquarters. In Austin, the Wind Symphony made time to visit the capitol building and to hold a musical fireside. To celebrate their successful tour, the group visited Six Flags Fiesta Texas in the final tour stop, San Antonio. Local Texans and BYU Alumni chapters hosted and served the group in every city throughout the tour. The BYU Alumni San Antonio Chapter sent the Wind Symphony off with a real Texas BBQ dinner to accompany the band’s final concert at St. Philip’s College. “I was impressed with the Wind Symphony’s energy, their desire to serve, their warmth, and their musical talent,” says Erin Rushforth, chair of the San Antonio chapter. The Wind Symphony will long remember their time in Texas. “I always believe that music is a people business, and our tours really help to showcase that,” says Bergman. “In the end, it’s about the music and the people. Putting that together is a perfect match.”

Wind Symphony