Collaborating Through Song in Vietnam and Indonesia

BYU Singers raised their voices to celebrate meeting new friends and exploring unique places in Indonesia and Vietnam this past spring.
For their first concert in Jakarta, Indonesia, the students collaborated with the Batavia Madrigal Singers, one of the most prestigious community choirs in the country. The choirs even swapped languages as the Batavia Madrigal Singers sang a special number in English and BYU Singers sang in the Bahasa Indonesian language, after being tutored by the Batavia Madrigal Singers.
The following day, BYU Singers performed national Indonesian songs as part of a celebration for National Education Day organized by Indonesia’s Ministry of Education and Culture. “That was the first time we saw the audience start whispering and then even singing along with us in honor of their nation and country,” says BYU Singers member Tesah Barton. “They were so excited and grateful that we had learned pieces in their language and especially pieces that meant so much to them.”
In the city of Bandung, group members learned to make a traditional Indonesian bamboo instrument called an angklung at Udjo’s House of Angklung. BYU Singers later collaborated with the popular Maranatha Christian University Choir, which also tours internationally.
One morning in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, the students left at 3:00 a.m. to head to the Borobudur Temple, a Buddhist sanctuary that dates back to the ninth century. The group hiked to the top of the stone building to see the sun rise over the tropical landscape. “It was a 360-degree view of beauty and nature,” says Barton.
Later the group gave an outreach performance at a rehabilitation center for handicapped youth. The group members sang for the children and helped them make arts and crafts. “I loved being able to see all the members of the choir interacting with these kids,” says Barton. “The kids were dancing to the music, and that was just really wonderful to see.” The next day, BYU Singers performed with Institut Seni Indonesia’s Vocalista Harmonic Choir.
The group’s final concert in Indonesia was in Bali at the St. Francis Xavier Church, where they collaborated with the Seraphim Children’s Choir, Hallelujah Choir, and Gamaliel Sonora Choir. “It was wonderful to hear the kids and everybody else just singing and loving music,” says Barton. “I think that’s one of the biggest parts of music—to bring joy to others and also bring joy to yourself.”
BYU Singers then traveled to Hanoi, Vietnam, and gave a concert in the historic Hanoi Opera House. In attendance were BYU president Kevin J Worthen, his wife, Peggy, and BYU international vice president Sandra Rogers. The Military University of Culture and Arts Choir performed with BYU Singers and presented President Worthen with a special gift: a picture of the Temple of Literature, the first university in Vietnam.
The group’s second collaboration in Hanoi was with the National University of Art Education Choir. A local composer conducted the combined choirs in a musical piece he had composed himself.
In Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon), BYU Singers joined the prestigious Saigon Choir for an outstanding concert at the Conservatory of Music Concert Hall. The BYU group also visited Hạ Long Bay, the Reunification Palace, and the Củ Chi Tunnels.
One of the tour highlights was working with and learning from many diverse people. “Hearing the other choirs really enlightened me,” says BYU Singers member Jennifer Bate. “They sing with a lot of energy and conviction because their dynamics and inflections are just spot on. . . . It really inspired me to be an expressive singer.”

Multimedia screens and creative staging enliven the joint performance with BYU Singers and the Maranatha Christian University Choir in Bandung, Indonesia.

BYU Singers member Josie Larsen exchanges greetings with one of the children at the YAKKUM Rehabilitation Center in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.

In Vietnam, BYU Singers performs in the historic Hanoi Opera House in collaboration with the Military University of Culture and Arts Choir.

In Bandung, Indonesia, BYU Singers member Savannah Porter (left) makes a new friend while rehearsing with the Maranatha Christian University Choir.

Exploring Belgium, France, and Poland

Adventuring through countries dotted with castles, palaces, and historical landmarks, International Folk Dance Ensemble shared a wealth of cultural dances and music along the way. The group visited Belgium, France, and Poland this summer and represented USA culture in the Hello!Schoten World Dance Festival and the Eurofolk International Folklore Festival.
The group began their tour by visiting the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. “Seeing her house personalized [her story] and made it seem closer to home. We talked about how important it is that we harbor a love for people of all different nationalities and beliefs,” says dancer Cassidy Brown. “It’s not only important that we love them but that we help them when times of crisis come.”
After driving through picturesque countryside to Brussels, Belgium, the group gave their first performance of the tour at the Theatre Wolubilis. Among the packed audience were special guests under the patronage of First Vice President of the European Parliament Ms. Mairead McGuinness, including European Union officials and also civic and religious leaders.
The next day, Ms. McGuinness provided the group with a private tour of the European Parliament building in Brussels. “Their goal is to have peace in the world,” says dancer Andrew Duncan, “and as we come to understand cultures from different countries, I believe that’s possible.” Members of International Folk Dance Ensemble showed their appreciation by performing a hard-shoe Irish number and singing the hymn “Irish Blessing” in honor of Ms. McGuinness’s home country.
The group then traveled to France. In Normandy, they visited World War II sites commemorating D-Day and the soldiers who fought in the war. “[The Omaha Beach Memorial Museum] had so many details about specific people and their jobs,” says Brown. “It was moving, it was sad—but it was encouraging to think what our grandfathers and great-grandfathers did for us to enjoy our freedom today.” The dancers also visited the Palace of Versailles and performed in the Massy Opera House.
Donning the name of BYU American Folk Dance Ensemble, the group then traveled to the Hello!Schoten festival in Belgium. As part of the festivities, the group taught and learned dances alongside other participants from countries such as Serbia, Malaysia, Belgium, Mexico, and Russia. “Not only were we performing our show, but we were watching others and learning dances,” says Brown. “It was a cool opportunity. Our group wasn’t just focusing on us but focusing on others.”
During Schoten’s sold-out closing ceremony, the audience showered the BYU students with applause. The singing and dancing went late into the evening as performers celebrated with and bid farewell to the friends they had met.
The end of one festival marked the beginning of another. The BYU group packed up once again, this time to head to Eurofolk in Poland. Between performances, they visited the Holocaust museum in Majdanek and the Wieliczka Salt Mine near Kraków. American Folk Dance Ensemble also met up with the Polish State Folk Ensemble, who taught the BYU group two different styles of Polish folk dance.
It was the sharing of dances that made the tour successful. “Being able to dance with and talk with so many different groups from so many different areas from the world was eye-opening,” says Brown. “It was fun to experience dance as a universal language that connects us to each other, even though a lot of us can’t speak the same language. [Dance] helped us understand each other.”

BYU International Folk Dance Ensemble visits France’s historic Mont-Saint-Michel.

“Even though a lot of us can’t speak the same language, [dance] helped us understand each other.” —­Cassidy Brown

In Belgium, BYU performer Eryn Hunt dances in the Hello!Schoten festival parade.

BYU performer Carissa Moser (left) dances with a participant from Martinique during Hello!Schoten.

Ms. Mairead McGuinness, first vice president of the European Parliament, shakes hands with International Folk Dance Ensemble director Jeanette Geslison (right), beside BYU associate international vice president Jeff Ringer (center), to thank the group for visiting Brussels, Belgium.

Dressed in their American costumes, Folk Dance Ensemble pauses for a photo in front of Schoten Castle in Belgium.

A Passion for Music in Australia

The BYU Wind Symphony hit a high note in the Land Down Under on their May tour. As they traveled throughout Australia, the BYU Wind Symphony held workshops with primary schools and universities—and still made time to sightsee.
After arriving in Sydney, the Wind Symphony toured the iconic Opera House. The group members admired the beautiful vaulted ceilings and listened to the Australian World Orchestra practice for an upcoming performance. Later the students performed with one of the country’s best wind symphonies, the Sydney Conservatorium of Music Wind Symphony.
The members of the BYU Wind Symphony also joined Mormon Helping Hands to volunteer at the Greystanes Disability Services center. Alongside youth of the Penrith Australia Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, they provided service by gardening and cleaning the center.
The group then traveled inland to Canberra, the capital city. The Wind Symphony members shared their love of music by holding a workshop and charity benefit concert at Canberra Girls Grammar School. All the proceeds were given to the Australian Red Cross. “The girls were all eager to learn and make music together. The two girls I sat next to asked so many questions and excitedly shared their life stories with us,” says trumpet player Abby Bates. “I actually just talked on the phone the other day with two girls I met. We’ve maintained a friendship, despite the distance and age difference.”
In Melbourne, the group attended an Aussie rules football game and later visited the southern coast. At sunset on Phillip Island, “[we] watched tons of penguins up close coming from the ocean, and [we] could hear the sound of waddling feet as they came by,” says clarinet player Jade Bliss.
The last stop on tour was Brisbane. In addition to forming bonds at workshops and rehearsals, the students also made furry friends at the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, where they were able to hold and take pictures with the koalas.
Nearby, they held an open rehearsal with Queensland Wind and Brass. Conductors and band students from the general public were invited to come listen. It was a great learning opportunity for the community as they watched Don Peterson direct the BYU Wind Symphony.
In Brisbane City Hall, the Wind Symphony collaborated with musical theatre star Patrice Tipoki and also composer and guest conductor Ralph Hultgren, whose compositions the symphony performed throughout the tour. Tipoki joined the Wind Symphony for three spectacular performances in three different cities. “[Tipoki] has a stunning voice, powerful, expressive, and filled with great finesse,” says Bates. “She is so talented and yet maintains an incredibly humble and gracious attitude.”
After giving ten concerts, the members of the Wind Symphony left Australia having learned lessons from the musicians they performed with, both professional and novice. “I was impressed by how much passion the students played with,” says Bates. “It’s obvious that they have a clear love for music beyond performances or praise from others. It made me want to play more like them.”

Members of the BYU Wind Symphony pose in front of the Sydney Opera House. Photo by Luis Puente.

In Melbourne, Australia, the Wind Symphony shares a fun activity with Chinese, international, and Vietnamese young adults from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The Wind Symphony performs at Brisbane City Hall in Australia.

BYU Wind Symphony director Don Peterson takes a photo of a kangaroo at Australia’s Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary.

At Brisbane City Hall, the Wind Symphony performs with actress and singer Patrice Tipoki.

Tour Highlight Photos (2018)

“Dance and music are one of the few ways we can break down barriers. This is a way we can push through all that and realize we have a lot more in common than we do differences.” —Living Legends member Mariah Matua

Mountain Strings, the band that accompanies BYU International Folk Dance Ensemble, plays in front of the Palace of Versailles in France.

The BYU Singers group enjoys a beautiful morning at the Borobudur Temple Compounds, near Yogyakarta, Indonesia.

Living Legends visits the historic Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany.

Members of the Ballroom Dance Company entertain more than 400 students at Hollymead Elementary School in Charlottesville, Virginia.

The Wind Symphony prepares a concert at Verbrugghen Hall at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music in Australia.

Breaking Language Barriers in Germany and Switzerland

BYU Living Legends fascinated thousands throughout Germany and Switzerland with their culturally rich show Seasons. The songs and dances featured a unique blend of Polynesian, Native American, and Latin American cultures that are not common to Europe. Despite the differences in culture, the members of Living Legends were able to connect with those they performed for. “Dance and music are one of the few ways we can break down barriers,” says performer Mariah Matua. “This is a way we can push through all that and realize we have a lot more in common than we do differences.”
The group’s first performance in Neumünster, Germany, was well attended, and the audience enjoyed clapping along with the music in the Native American “Hoop Dance.” Their clapping kept time as a trio danced with multiple hoops in rhythmic and dynamic movements. Afterward audience members tested their own skills with the hoops.
In Hagen, Germany, spectators were amazed to hear the performance in their own language. Living Legends group members performed the vocal elements of their show completely in German, accompanied by prerecorded narration.
One of the most memorable performances was a free outdoor show at Konstablerwache square in Frankfurt, Germany. Of the tens of thousands of commuters who pass through the area each day on their way to one of the busiest train stations in all of Europe, many were drawn in to watch as Living Legends performed in their vibrant regalia. “The performance was breathtaking,” said Ralf Grünke, associate director of public affairs for the Europe Area of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “This was a celebration of diversity, of love, of humankind, and of life itself.”
When they traveled to Ludwigshafen, Germany, group members visited St. Annastift Children’s Hospital and performed for the patients. “It was very humbling to perform at the hospital because we were able to give the children something they weren’t able to see daily,” says performer Jessica Lopez. “[It] allowed me to learn that the tour was not about us.”
During the tour, the group visited several cultural sites. One of the most influential was the Nazi concentration camp in Dachau. The group members were emotionally affected as they walked through the barracks and crematorium to learn about its fatal history. “It was a very somber experience,” says performer Jared Cuessy. “It was inspiring that people are forgiving.”
In Horgen, Switzerland, Living Legends performed in Schinzenhof Hall for a packed audience, some of whom had traveled up to four hours to see the performance. Later in Lucerne, Switzerland, the group rode the steepest cogwheel railway in the world, which passes through beautiful alpine meadows and breathtaking rock formations to reach Mount Pilatus’s summit at nearly 7,000 feet.
The tour came to an end as the group gave its last performance at the renowned Berlin University of the Arts. The venue was filled with diverse attendees from all parts of eastern Germany. “Hindus, Jews, Muslims, and politicians came to take part in the performance,” said audience member Ralf Bartsch.
The audience members personally thanked BYU Living Legends for their beautiful presentation. Cuessy says, “Even though language barriers existed, we were still connected. Even if we touched one life, it was time well worth it. There are so many results we will not be able to see. The impact of one life is more than enough.”

In Frankfurt, Germany, Living Legends gives a free performance at Konstablerwache square.

(Right to left) Mariah Shurtleff and Aaron Pérez, two Living Legends dancers, instruct students at an elementary school in Mannheim, Germany.

Living Legends member Ruth Arce entertains an audience at Konstablerwache square in Frankfurt, Germany.

Living Legends performer Michael Goedel hoop dances for patients at St. Annastift Children’s Hospital in Ludwigshafen am Rhein, Germany.

Freedom, Faith, and Family in the Northeast

The Ballroom Dance Company let their theme “Freedom, Faith, and Family” guide them on every part of their May tour to the northeastern United States—from performances to community outreaches to sightseeing.
Upon arriving in Rochester, New York, the group danced for the patrons of the House of Mercy homeless shelter and then taught some dance moves. “It doesn’t matter if we’re doing the show in the fanciest venue or at a homeless shelter,” says dancer Jessica Baldwin. “What matters is looking people in the eye and seeing how human contact can uplift people’s spirits. Dance really is a universal language.”
The group also visited the UR Medicine Golisano Children’s Hospital. They performed for young patients and delivered a box of toys and gifts the group had collected. The group members enjoyed watching as one child felt the rhythm and didn’t let his IV line get in the way of him dancing. “A distraction or release from their problems just for a little bit makes a world of difference for patients,” says dancer Tanner Grenko.
BYU’s first few performances of their fast-paced show Swing ’n’ Sway provided unique opportunities to meet BYU alumni. At the Kodak Center Theater in Rochester, New York, many BYU alumni, friends, and community members were in attendance. At the George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, the BYU Alumni Washington DC Chapter greeted the students and audience members with a large reception in the venue’s lobby. In a performance at Western Albemarle High School in Crozet, Virginia, former BYU football head coach Bronco Mendenhall, now head coach at the University of Virginia, attended with several of his staff members and their families.
The group continued on to Charlottesville, Virginia, where they were able to teach dance steps to more than 400 students at Hollymead Elementary School during a school-wide assembly. The group also performed in Richmond, Virginia; Raleigh, North Carolina; and Sewell, New Jersey.
Returning to New York City, the group enjoyed a workshop at the Brooklyn Dancesport Club. “We got top-of-the-world instructions,” says Baldwin. The Ballroom Dance Company participated in master classes by coaches Eugene Katsevman, Maria Manusova, and Alina Basyuk, all professionals who have worked with BYU’s Department of Dance to help choreograph and coach the students. “Being able to have a lesson with these prestigious dancers, some who are the best in the world, was an honor,” says Grenko.
In New York City, the group visited the National September 11 Memorial. “I’m from the East Coast, and growing up with friends who had parents involved in the 9/11 attacks made seeing the memorial a really moving experience for me,” says Baldwin. In Palmyra, New York, group members learned more about the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; they also stopped at the Philadelphia Pennsylvania and Hartford Connecticut Temples. Also in Hartford, the group visited the Connecticut Historical Society Museum, established in 1825, and while touring Boston, Massachusetts, they dumped tea into the harbor.
“The real purpose of this tour was to emphasize freedom, faith, and family,” says Baldwin. “I felt extremely impacted by how blessed we are to live in this nation and do the things we are able to do.”

“What matters is looking people in the eye and seeing how human contact can uplift people’s spirits.” —­Jessica Baldwin

The Ballroom Dance Company prepares a bow after the group’s concert finale at George Mason University in Virginia.

BYU dancer Megan Smith (left) signs a program for young fans after a concert in Fairfax, Virginia.

BYU dancer Makayla Bezzant (second from right) poses with a patient and guests at UR Medicine Golisano Children’s Hospital in New York.

Members of the BYU Ballroom Dance Company visit the statue of the angel Moroni at the Hill Cumorah near Palmyra, New York.

In New York, members of the Ballroom Dance Company hug one another and their Brooklyn Dancesport Club instructors.