Sharing the Stage in Xi’an

The final week of the BYU Young Ambassadors’ tour to China was a whirlwind of activity. The busy week started on Monday with a cultural activity at the Shaanxi Provincial Cultural Center, where artisans from the Shaanxi Province had booths showcasing local art, crafts, and music. The students were captivated by the variety of art forms represented.  The Young Ambassadors were honored to represent the United States at the US-China Tourism Leadership Summit in Xi’an. They spent the afternoon rehearsing for that evening’s private show for the summit’s delegates. The performance included a simple Chinese dance with parasols and fans to be performed with the other program participants for the finale. The performance that night was simply stunning.  The show, titled Broadway Charm and Qin Rhyme, featured the Young Ambassadors performing a shortened version of their show. They were followed by six performing groups from the Shaanxi Province who showcased Chinese dance, acrobatics, martial arts dance, calligraphy, shadow play, marionette puppets, Chinese opera, and street dance. The BYU students were awed and honored to share the stage with such prodigious talent. They were also thrilled to take photos and interact with the other performers following the show.  Early the next morning, the group traveled to the Xi’an International Convention Center, where they rehearsed with other performers for the opening ceremony of the summit. They spent the afternoon visiting the excavation site of the Terracotta Army and were amazed at the vastness of the ancient clay soldiers. That evening, they attended the summit’s welcome ceremony as honored guests.  Wednesday morning, the group joined other performers at the summit in singing the beloved Chinese folk song “Mo Li Hua (Jasmine Flower)” for the opening ceremony. The BYU students were honored to be involved in celebrating the growing ties in tourism and cultural exchange between China and the United States.  That afternoon, Xi’an Tieyi High School hosted the group for a cultural exchange, after which the Young Ambassadors boarded a flight to Nanjing. They performed in Nanjing on Thursday evening, followed by an early-morning flight to Taiyuan. Friday evening, they gave their final performance of the China tour, at the Taiyuan Youth’s Palace Arts Center, where they entertained a nearly full house and many dignitaries in attendance.  On Saturday morning, the group boarded the final train of their tour, heading for Beijing. They spent the afternoon climbing the Great Wall of China at Juyongguan. Several members of the group bravely completed the full loop of the wall in that area in two hours, despite the rain, cold, and foggy conditions.  The Young Ambassadors’ last full day in China began with attending church in Beijing with an international branch of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They were overjoyed to finally worship with local Church members, having missed the privilege previously in the tour due to scheduling and government protocols. That afternoon they toured the Forbidden City, marveling at the scope and craftsmanship of the imperial palace of the Ming and Qing dynasties. Afterward, they explored the Silk Market to gather some final souvenirs before boarding a flight to return to Utah on Monday morning.  The Young Ambassadors have treasured their time on tour. Reflecting on her experience in China, BYU student Riley Holmes says, “It was really special for me to interact with people from other cultures in music and song, even if we couldn’t understand each other. It also meant a lot to become so close with our team. My time in China was a dream come true!”  BYU student Christian McCleary adds, “I learned that the arts are a universal language. We may not have been able to understand each other’s words, but we could always relate to music and dance. I learned a lot about how diverse cultures can be, but what meant the most to me was the time I spent with my fellow performers.” The group members are grateful for the opportunity they had to experience ancient and modern Chinese culture and to connect with the people of China. They have made memories and associations on this tour that will last a lifetime. 

Leaving Footprints in the South

The ensemble began their week exploring downtown Nashville before traveling to Nolensville High School to participate in an outreach with the school’s special education students. The high school students enjoyed interactive dances with the Folk Dancers and the chance to talk with them. Students from the high school’s theatre tech class were invited to work with the BYU students in setting up the stage for the ensemble’s evening performance and were able to see how the behind-the-scenes magic happens.  In Birmingham, Alabama, the ensemble was featured on Fox 6 News, giving a live interview and dance demonstration before they began setting up a show at Thompson High School. Shortly after arriving, half of the group departed for a nearby intermediate school, where 400 fifth graders were waiting to learn about cultural dances and see some of the show’s highlights. In the evening, the Folk Dancers and Mountain Strings took to the stage for a mesmerizing performance in Birmingham.  On Wednesday, May 15, the ensemble visited the Legacy Museum in Montgomery, which was built where enslaved Black people in the past were forced to labor in a cotton warehouse. The Legacy Museum tells the story of slavery in America through interactive media, first-person narratives, world-class art, and data-rich exhibits. After a morning of reflection the BYU group arrived at O’Dessa’s Blessing, a southern restaurant, where they were received warmly. The ensemble next drove down to Tallahassee, Florida, where they participated in an uplifting outreach session with local youth of the Church that combined dance instruction and testimony.  The group finally had a day to catch an extra hour of sleep before they visited the construction site of the Tallahassee Florida Temple and had a bite to eat. Afterward, they set up at Lawton Chiles High School, where the ensemble delighted the crowd with a rousing final performance of a long but rewarding tour.  The ensemble ventured into nature the next day with a visit to the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia, surrounding themselves with the natural biodiversity and beauty of the blackwater swamp, birds, Spanish moss, and, of course, alligators. They headed to Jacksonville Beach, Florida, that night.  They spent Saturday afternoon at Daytona Beach, soaking up the sun and enjoying the sand and waves. In the evening they experienced a swashbuckling-filled Pirate’s Dinner Adventure show.  On Sunday, they attended church in Orlando and then spread joy and uplifted spirits at a heartfelt devotional for youth and young adults.  To conclude their time in the Southeast, the ensemble had the opportunity to unwind and enjoy the magic and wonder at Walt Disney World. The group investigated the many cultural lands in Epcot and on another day packed in rides, food, and more fun at Hollywood Studios. Spending time at the Disney parks marked the end of several weeks on the road making wonderful memories.  BYU Folk Dance Ensemble’s time in the southern United States was truly unforgettable, filled with diverse experiences, magical performances, educational outreach programs, cultural exploration, and beachside relaxation. They were grateful for the opportunity to represent Brigham Young University and meet amazing people while on tour. 

Magical Moments in China

The Young Ambassadors kicked off the second week of their tour with a magical day at Shanghai Disneyland, one of the world’s most beloved theme parks. On Tuesday, May 14, the Young Ambassadors arrived in Hangzhou and explored the historical and natural beauty of the city. They visited Lingyin Temple and Fei Lai Feng, where ancient Buddhist carvings and temple grounds provided a glimpse into China’s spiritual heritage. The day concluded with a walk along Hefang Street, where they explored traditional crafts and local delicacies. They spent the next morning by Xi Hu (West Lake) before the busy afternoon. BYU president C. Shane Reese and his wife, Wendy; associate international vice president Jeff Ringer and his wife, Amy; and general counsel Steve Sandberg and his son John all arrived in China in time to watch the Young Ambassadors perform at the Dongpo Theater. President Reese greeted the group following the performance and expressed his gratitude for their positive representation of BYU in China. The Young Ambassadors took a train to Hefei the next day, where they delivered a stunning performance at the Hefei Grand Theater. The following morning, the group took a bus to Yancheng. There they performed at the Jiangsu Grand Theater. The audience that night was filled with families and included many excited children who enthusiastically waved LED light sticks in response to the dancers’ energy. Saturday was a much-needed recovery day for the group. They spent the morning enjoying the amenities of their hotel and exploring the city. That afternoon they visited the China Yellow Sea Wetlands Museum, where they learned about the ecological importance of the region. They also spent time exploring the Zhulin Hotel, a replica of old Yancheng that hearkens back to the China of the 1960s and ’70s, before diplomatic relations between the People’s Republic of China and the United States were reestablished. Sunday morning the group boarded a train for Xi’an. They spent the evening surrounded by the vibrant culture and crowds that thronged the city, from the nearby Dayan (Big Wild Goose) Pagoda to the Great Tang All Day Mall. The Young Ambassadors’ second week in China was a journey of new discoveries and vivid performances that bridged cultures and created lasting memories. As they continue their tour, the students look forward to more opportunities to connect with new friends and share their talents.

Faith and Fellowship in Germany

After a wonderful two days at Jazzfest am Dom in Trier, Germany, it was almost time for BYU Synthesis to begin their journey home. Before heading back to the airport in Amsterdam, Synthesis attended a meeting of the local branch of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Trier, where two members of Synthesis, Chase Kimball and Jens Watts, gave talks in German. While there, the trumpet section performed a rendition of “A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief” arranged by Synthesis trumpet player Luke Gunnerson. This experience, following their final performance of the tour, was an excellent reminder of who these students are, beyond their musical capabilities.  In Amsterdam, the group attended a special tour of the Anne Frank House. The in-depth presentation there took the group into the story of Anne Frank’s life. The presentation ended with a powerful reminder that Anne is known and remembered only because we have her writings. Millions of stories similar to hers have been forever lost. The prejudices that prevailed during World War II did not end when the war ended, and we must do our best to continue to root out racism and prejudices from ourselves and our communities.  Following the visit to the Anne Frank House, Synthesis explored Dutch art history at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, which houses works by Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Van Gogh. Students were able to closely study the masterful brush strokes left by these artists, drawing inspiration for their own journey in mastering the instruments they play and the art they create through music.  Synthesis created some powerful waves in the European jazz community, and they hope to continue to do so on future international tours. The members of Synthesis grew as musicians and performers as they took master classes from some of the best jazz artists in the world, provided workshops to aspiring musicians, and performed alongside jazz bands of all calibers. Lasting friendships were made, and good things are to come for the students of Synthesis.  Immediately following their return, Synthesis recorded a brand-new album featuring the pieces they played on tour, with many original arrangements by students in the group. This album will soon be available on Spotify and other streaming platforms found at 

Sharing the Joy of Jazz

The week for BYU Synthesis started with the first-ever sacrament meeting specifically for young adults in Brussels, Belgium. Young adults from two stakes of the Church traveled to meet for the sacrament. President Olivier Istace, president of the Brussels Belgium Stake, was thrilled with the turnout and hopes to have more young adult sacrament meetings in the future.  During the second hour of the meeting, Synthesis performed a musical devotional with many original musical arrangements written by the BYU students. A lunch with the young adult Church members followed before the band traveled to Cologne, Germany.  In Cologne, the students observed the process behind making delicious German chocolate at Lindt Chocolate Museum. Afterward, they climbed the 533 steps to the top of the bell tower in the iconic Cologne Cathedral, known for its gothic architecture and beautiful stained glass.  Synthesis moved on to their next city and conducted a master class followed by a joint performance with more than 50 band students from the small town of Hermeskeil. Elementary students through high school alumni joined forces with Synthesis for this concert, and the audience was blown away as Synthesis started playing. The gymnasium was jam-packed with an energetic crowd, and audience members afterward kept asking when Synthesis would come back to play again.  The band played in Stuttgart next, where they dove right into another performance workshop, teaching the next generation of jazz musicians at Stuttgart High School. They broke into sectionals to provide individualized instructions on their instruments, then came back together to practice as a group. The combined performance was again met with an enthusiastic audience. Cheers exploded as Andy Held, the Stuttgart High School band director, revealed his BYU polo and gave Synthesis director Dr. Ben Nichols a Stuttgart hoodie to wear for the final song of the concert.  Finally, the band finished off their week in Trier, the oldest city in Germany, and performed at Jazzfest am Dom. The yearly jazz festival is held in Trier outside of St. Peter’s Cathedral, which was built in the year AD 270. The final public performance from Synthesis on this tour was a brilliant set of songs arranged by students in the band, and the festival organizers were shocked at the BYU students’ professional-level talent.  Synthesis’s second week in Europe was a harmonious blend of music, culture, and camaraderie. As they head into the final week of their tour, they eagerly anticipate more opportunities to share their passion for jazz and connect with diverse audiences. 

Reflection and Celebration in Japan

As the groups’ tour entered its closing phase in Japan, Noteworthy and Vocal Point bid farewell to Osaka and journeyed by train to Hiroshima, a city with a poignant history etched in the memories of humanity. Their first stop was the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, which stands as a solemn testament to the resilience of the human spirit in the face of tragedy. Amidst the serene surroundings, they sang songs of hope and unity to honor the memories of those affected by the atomic bomb. After their reflective morning, Noteworthy and Vocal Point brought their a cappella talents to the hall at Hiroshima’s JMS Aster Plaza, where they shared their music with a captivated audience. The groups journeyed onward to Fukuoka, where they immersed themselves in the vibrant atmosphere of Hakata Station. The BYU students savored their first taste of sushi within the very land renowned for its creation. Prior to their final concert, the groups engaged with local youth and young adults of the Church by sharing one another’s cultures and forging connections that transcended language barriers. That evening, esteemed guests warmly welcomed Noteworthy and Vocal Point at Namiki Square for the final show of the tour. On Wednesday, May 15, the groups flew back to the bustling metropolis of Tokyo. Amidst the wonder of Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea, Noteworthy and Vocal Point embraced the magic of childhood dreams and created unforgettable memories as they reveled in the joyous ambiance of these iconic parks. However, Tokyo has a kaleidoscope of experiences besides the magic of Disney. Some of the group explored the immersive creativity of teamLab Planets in Tokyo, where art and technology intertwine to create ethereal landscapes of light and color, and wandered through gardens that seemed to come alive with every step. With hearts full of gratitude for the wonderful people they met and memories to last a lifetime, Vocal Point and Noteworthy bid a fond farewell to Japan. David Gaag, a tenor in Vocal Point, says, “Our tour to Japan, Mongolia, and South Korea was an eye-opening experience. The selfless efforts of the local people and their willingness to assist us on our tour showed an example to me of how I want to serve in my own life using the talents I’ve been given.” Noteworthy beatboxer Kassie Sanders adds, “The Asia tour gave me experiences as a student performer that I couldn’t have gotten anywhere else. I was impacted the most by the interactions I had with audience members because I got to know so many different people from so many different places. Through them, I gained a greater sense of gratitude that BYU provides these opportunities for their students, that we can connect with people around the world and improve our cultural competency skills through these lived experiences.” The memories of Asia and the warm hospitality of the people in South Korea, Mongolia, and Japan will forever resonate within the hearts of those privileged to have embarked on this remarkable journey.

Enchanting Ending in Southern Africa

For the BYU Ballroom Dance Company, Monday, May 13, began with majestic Victoria Falls and Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park. They enjoyed a serene river cruise and the tranquil beauty of the Zambezi River. The awe-inspiring views helped the dancers rejuvenate their spirits for the adventures ahead.  The following day, the company ran into delays getting their equipment out of customs. This made for a quick change in the itinerary as they began their long journey to Harare, Zimbabwe. In Harare, the dancers took to the stage at the 7 Arts Theatre and delivered to a full house a performance that showcased the beauty and art of ballroom dance.  The company continued their journey with another long travel day as they flew to Maputo, Mozambique. Their first morning in Maputo was a day of service at the Boane Women’s Center, which is sponsored by the No Poor Among Us project. The organization began as a project to help the people of Mozambique learn self-sufficiency through growing food and has now expanded to promote education and job training for girls and women in the region.  The Ballroom Dance Company also had meaningful experiences in a Maputo suburb at the Zimpeto Children’s Centre. The BYU students toured the facility, donated school supplies and hygiene products, performed for the staff and residents, and embodied the spirit of compassion and unity that lives in and around Maputo. BYU Ballroom Dancer Jaxon Phillips says, “I felt an overwhelming amount of love at the children’s center in Mozambique. The pure joy radiated by the kids was astounding. It was inspiring to see the difference the leaders of the center made in the children’s lives, showing me that God truly looks after His children.”  The Ballroom Dance Company made history by being the first BYU performing ensemble to visit the country of Mozambique. The dancers graced the stage at the Centro Cultural da Universidade Eduardo Mondlane and enchanted the audience with their infectious energy. The dancers showcased two captivating performances that celebrated the universal language of dance and embraced the diversity of Mozambique’s rich heritage.  As the week drew to a close, the company attended church in Africa for one last time and connected through shared faith with the local congregation. A devotional followed later in the day for Church members in and around Maputo before the Ballroom Dance Company began the long journey back home.  The final week of tour in southern Africa was a testament to the power of dance, service, and love as the BYU Ballroom Dance Company strove to fulfill their desire to learn, to share, and to serve all of God’s children. Shaped in many ways during their time in Africa, company members will carry with them memories that will last a lifetime and an even deeper commitment to continue sharing their passion for dance with the world. 

From the Steppes of Mongolia to the Streets of Japan

After a seamless flight from South Korea to Mongolia, Noteworthy and Vocal Point arrived in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar. The groups drove to the heart of the city, where they visited Sükhbaatar Square, a historic landmark central to Mongolia’s democratic revolution.  The following day Noteworthy and Vocal Point visited the iconic statue of Chinggis Khaan (Genghis Khan). Noteworthy later hosted a workshop at a local high school before both BYU groups performed at the Corporate Hotel and Convention Centre concert hall. Afterward they had a special dinner with local youth, attended a VIP reception, and gave another mesmerizing performance.  At the conclusion of their time in Mongolia on Wednesday morning, the groups flew to Tokyo, Japan. They visited the beautiful Tokyo Japan Temple and enjoyed participating in ordinances. The evening was a culinary delight with dinner at Nabezo Shibuya Koen-dori, a popular hot pot restaurant, followed by a Vocal Point music video shoot in the vibrant Shibuya district.  On May 9, the group members were captivated by the Tokyo National Museum, home to Japan’s largest art collection and renowned as the country’s oldest museum. At Ryogoku High School and Fuchu Nishi High School, Noteworthy and Vocal Point delivered mini performances and led interactive sessions as part of an outreach effort for the local students. Following the workshops, they had dinner with local youth and young adults of the Church of Jesus Christ before they concluded their evening by visiting Tokyo Tower.  On Friday morning, Vocal Point started the day early to finish their music video. Then both groups explored historic Senso-ji (Asakusa Kannon Temple), the oldest Buddhist temple in Tokyo, which draws millions of worshippers annually. BYU president C. Shane Reese and his wife, Wendy, accompanied by associate international vice president Jeff Ringer and his wife, Amy, arrived in Tokyo just in time to attend the VIP reception held before Noteworthy and Vocal Point’s captivating performance at Ota Kumin Hall APRICO that evening.  The adventure continued on May 11 with a scenic train ride to Osaka on the Shinkansen, commonly known as the bullet train. Noteworthy and Vocal Point marveled at the majestic Osaka Castle, a historic landmark with roots dating back to 1583, before they performed at the Osaka City Central Public Hall.  On Sunday morning, the groups immersed themselves in the city of Kyoto, beginning with a worship service at a local chapel. Afterward, they visited multiple iconic landmarks in the area, including Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion), a Zen Buddhist temple whose top two floors are completely covered in gold leaf; Chion-in, the head temple of the Jodo sect of Buddhism; and Fushimi Inari-taisha, a shrine dedicated to Inari, the Shinto god of rice, that contains thousands of vermilion torii gates, which line pathways that lead up to the sacred Mount Inari. The day’s events concluded with a charity concert in Ibaraki and a community devotional with President Reese and the Church’s Asia North Area Presidency—Elders Takashi Wada, John McCune, and Kimo Esplin.  With another week of touring still ahead, Noteworthy and Vocal Point are full of gratitude for the opportunity to perform, hold outreach events, and see the beauty of east Asia. Stay tuned for more updates, as their final week of tour is sure to hold even more excitement! 

From Tulip Fields to Concert Halls

On May 2, BYU’s jazz ensemble Synthesis began their tour to Europe in the Netherlands. Members of Synthesis immersed themselves in Amsterdam’s vibrant ambiance, exploring the world-renowned Keukenhof Tulip Gardens and riding a canal boat through the city. Later Synthesis performed an original arrangement in a meetinghouse in Amsterdam before taking center stage Sunday evening at the ZIMIHC Theater Stefanus, where they performed alongside student big bands from Utrecht and Stuttgart. Before leaving the Netherlands, Synthesis joined a master class at Conservatorium Maastricht conducted by Dave Kikoski and Alex Sipiagin, two world-class jazz musicians.  Synthesis then traveled to Germany, visiting Bad Bergzabern and Kaiserslautern, where they conducted performance workshops with high school student bands and performed for enthusiastic crowds.  In Brussels, the European Union Office and International Affairs Office of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints hosted Synthesis for a special performance for ambassadors from around the globe on May 10 at the KBR Museum. Elder Jack Gerard of the Europe Central Area Presidency and Sister Jean Bingham, former Relief Society General President, spoke with the band members about the importance of building global bridges and the impact their conversations and performance would have that night in helping those bridges turn into friendships. 

Service, Safaris, and the Spirit

Week two for the Ballroom Dance Company commenced with a visit to the Bahurutshe Cultural Village near Gaborone, Botswana. After an enlightening morning, the group had the unique opportunity to share lunch with and be addressed by Howard A. Van Vranken, US ambassador to Botswana. A highlight of the busy day was a cultural exchange and dinner with traditional dance group Mafitlhakgosi from Old Naledi, one of the oldest townships in Gaborone. The company later gathered for an uplifting home evening with missionaries and members of the Gaborone Botswana Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. After completing a radio interview the next morning, the BYU group teamed up with volunteers from Duma FM, missionaries from the Church, and community members to clean up litter in Bokaa, a small village on the outskirts of Gaborone. The Ballroom Dance Company then put on a VIP reception and breathtaking performance for 1,500 people at the University of Botswana’s Indoor Sports Arena. Connie Rapoo, associate professor of visual and performing arts at the University of Botswana, shared thoughts that an audience member expressed to her: “Magnificent, marvelous, magical! I was transfixed the entire show and transferred into another world! I was moved to tears more than once and overwhelmed by the beauty that came alive before us.” After journeying to Pilanesberg National Park, the BYU dancers found themselves amidst the breathtaking beauty of the South African wilderness. An evening game drive offered glimpses of Africa’s majestic wildlife, igniting a sense of awe among the company. The next day they went on a morning game drive, where they spotted wildlife of all kinds and enjoyed the landscape before they headed to Johannesburg, South Africa. While in Johannesburg, the company attended the temple, which provided moments of reflection and spiritual renewal. Following the temple, they gave an informal performance at Nelson Mandela Square in Sandton. A highlight of their stay in Johannesburg was spending time reading aloud some of their favorite books, which they donated to the children of the Windybrow Arts Centre. Windybrow hosts an after-school program devoted to the betterment and enrichment of children’s lives in the neighborhood of Hillbrow. The company also paid a visit to Mandela House in nearby Soweto—a former home of Nelson Mandela that has been turned into a public heritage site and museum. Their time in South Africa finished with two electrifying performances that afternoon and evening at Gibson Kente Theatre. As the week drew to a close, the company made the long journey to majestic Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, where they immersed themselves in the splendor of one of the world’s greatest natural wonders and explored the astonishing beauty of Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park. During their final week abroad, the Ballroom Dance Company will continue to weave their magic throughout southern Africa as they perform three more times and engage in meaningful experiences to come.

Stepping into the South

BYU’s Folk Dance Ensemble and Mountain Strings bid farewell to the beautiful city of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, and departed for Salt Lake City on Monday, May 6. At the airport in Utah, the tech crew joined the ensemble before they took off together for the southern United States.  The ensemble landed in Raleigh, North Carolina, on Tuesday morning, where they enjoyed a big meal and a peaceful, scenic drive to Greensboro before their busy week.  To kick off their tour of the South, the ensemble held a meaningful outreach performance at Mineral Springs Middle School, sharing their passion for dance with the next generation of artists. Later that evening, Folk Dance Ensemble took to the stage at the historic Carolina Theatre.  Exploration awaited the group the next day in Charleston, South Carolina, where they toured the Magnolia Plantation and Gardens and immersed themselves in the rich history and natural beauty of the region. Afterward, they raced back to the hotel to change so they could shoot a new music video! The rest of the evening was left to students to explore or catch a few extra hours of sleep.  On May 10, the ensemble continued their community outreach efforts with visits to a local charter school and to Battery Creek High School. They were greeted by more than 500 students, who cheered and screamed when the dancers entertained them with flips and tricks. The BYU group enjoyed the enthusiasm of the students and saw several of them return to the performance that evening in Beaufort. Some members of the audience traveled more than two hours just to attend.  The ensemble made it to Atlanta, Georgia, the following afternoon and participated in a workshop with the Uhuru Dancers, a nonprofit organization that shares African culture and performing arts with the community. The dance instruction further expanded the students’ exposure to unique cultural body movements that were challenging and exciting to learn. Musicians from BYU Mountain Strings also joined the dance class, except for BYU percussionist Tyler Anderson, who learned new drumming techniques from Guinea.  Sunday morning, the ensemble attended a local church service and then grabbed lunch at the world’s largest Buc-ee’s, part of the famous gas station franchise, before continuing their journey to Nashville, Tennessee. That evening, the group attended a private question-and-answer session with one of the most popular country music songwriters in Nashville, BYU alumnus Tony Martin, who has written 16 number-one hits.  Folk Dance Ensemble’s second week on tour was filled with unforgettable experiences. As they continue their journey through the southern United States, they look forward to sharing more enchanting performances and having more opportunities to reach out and minister to those they meet along the way! 

Building Friendships in China

After landing in Guangzhou, China, on Thursday, May 9, the BYU Young Ambassadors headed to Shamian Island, a historic river port covered in colonial architecture and lush greenery. They visited the renowned Qingping Medicine Market, where the sights, sounds, and scents of traditional Chinese medicine provided a sensory experience unlike any other. That evening, the Young Ambassadors set sail on a cruise on the Pearl River, taking in panoramic views of the city’s skyline. The next morning brought a blend of tradition and collaboration as the Young Ambassadors delved into the cultural heritage of Guangzhou. They explored the Chen Clan Ancestral Hall and its trove of art and history. Continuing their learning, they visited the Guangdong Teachers College of Foreign Language and Arts, where they participated in a cultural exchange with students at the college. Students from both schools reveled in sharing their dance talents and bonding despite language barriers. Saturday was a day of preparation and anticipation as the Young Ambassadors readied themselves for their opening performance at the esteemed National Dr. Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall. Fine-tuning their harmonies and choreography, they poured their hearts and souls into their first show. Those in attendance were especially moved by the group’s rendition of the Chinese folk song “Mo Li Hua (Jasmine Flower)” at the close of the show. The Young Ambassadors left Guangzhou on Sunday for Shanghai. Once they landed, they wasted no time immersing themselves in the city’s culture at the Asia Pacific Shopping Plaza. They ended their day with a traditional Chinese meal in the beautiful and historic Yu Yuan area and a stroll along the Bund, enjoying the contrast of the colonial architecture on one side of the river and the modern, LED-lit Shanghai skyline on the opposite side. The Young Ambassadors’ first week in China has left the students excited for the cities and performances ahead of them on their tour. They look forward to many more connections with people they will meet during their upcoming adventures.

Dancing Across Southern Africa

On May 1, the BYU Ballroom Dance Company kicked off their adventure on a boat tour through the scenic waters of Hout Bay in Cape Town, South Africa, where they soaked in the breathtaking views of the coastline and spotted the seals of Duiker Island. They later participated in a VIP reception before gracing the stage of the esteemed Cape Town International Convention Centre for their first performance of the tour.  The following morning, the Ballroom Dance Company ventured to Table Mountain for the breathtaking views of Cape Town and then went to Boulders Beach for a delightful encounter with African penguins. Later, the group took part in an inspiring cultural outreach initiative, collaborating with a dance group from iThemba Labantu Lutheran Community Centre in Philippi, a township in Cape Town. During the cultural exchange, both groups shared their passion for dance, fostered connections, and spread joy in the local community. “We had an incredible time with the kids in Cape Town from iThemba Labantu,” says Ballroom Dance Company member Kennidy McOmber. “Watching them dance and seeing the joy they all have no matter their circumstances has been truly eye-opening and inspiring.” The day concluded with dinner and an activity at a meetinghouse of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints near Stellenbosch, which gave the BYU students and local young adults the opportunity to build bonds of camaraderie.  A journey to Durban awaited them the next morning. In Durban they immersed themselves in an invigorating outreach with the cultural dance group Usiko Entertainment. The groups engaged with each other and made new friendships by teaching and performing for one another and sharing their passion for dance. Afterward, the company enjoyed some traditional Zulu dishes before ending their day.  The excitement didn’t stop the next day as the Ballroom Dance Company took the stage at the renowned Playhouse Company Opera Theatre in Durban, delivering not one but two mesmerizing performances. The BYU students were honored to have Ms. Gugu Ngcobo representing the royal Zulu household at their performance. Ms. Ngcobo addressed the company and gave them gifts on behalf of the Zulu queen.  As the clock struck three the next morning, the Ballroom Dance Company bid farewell to Durban and set their sights on Gaborone, Botswana, by way of Johannesburg. While in Johannesburg, the group attended a local Church branch of young single adults. They shared a beautiful testimony meeting followed by a devotional from the BYU students and group discussions focused on the similarities of both groups despite living so far apart from each other.  The tour has only just begun, and the BYU Ballroom Dance Company is loving their time in southern Africa. They are looking forward to more enchanting performances and cultural exchanges in the weeks to come! 

Parades and Performances

On April 28, amidst the lively atmosphere of Mexico’s Vallarta Azteca International Folk Dance Festival, BYU’s Folk Dance Ensemble kicked off their tour by dancing American folk numbers in a spirited parade attended by thousands. Following the parade, they took the stage at the festival’s opening ceremony. The next day, the ensemble engaged with the local community at the Baila Conmigo event, where they demonstrated moves, danced with the public, and spread joy and cultural appreciation. Later that day, the ensemble delivered an energetic performance at Teatro Vallarta that left the audience in awe. On April 30, the ensemble participated in a photo rally with other dance groups, adding to the festive atmosphere of the Puerto Vallarta folk celebrations. The BYU directors and two students also had the honor of presenting to local authorities several gifts and a BYU flag as symbols of friendship and goodwill. Meanwhile, another pair of BYU dancers met with a local television station to do a demonstration of American dance. The ensemble continued to shine later that evening with a performance at Los Arcos del Malecón Amphitheater in front of a packed audience. The next afternoon, the BYU group spread their magic to the town of Tomatlán, where the ensemble participated in another lively parade and delivered yet another performance that thrilled a crowd of over 800. The event was attended by the president of the International Council of Organizations of Folklore Festivals and Folk Arts, who raved about the group’s fantastic performance. A day of spreading joy and exchanging cultures followed on May 3 as the ensemble performed at a local middle school. The school children in turn gave presentations about different states in Mexico, while the BYU students listened intently and asked questions about customs and cultures. The Folk Dancers later delivered an enchanting performance in Ixtapa, where they danced alongside an Aztec dance group. To enjoy their Saturday, the ensemble ventured to San Sebastián del Oeste, where they explored the town, which has been nominated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and shared an uplifting performance with the locals. The festival culminated on Sunday, May 5, with a meaningful religious ceremony for world peace, where the groups united to sing songs in a message of harmony; Folk Dance Ensemble sang an arrangement of “Irish Blessing.” The closing ceremony at the La Lija Cultural Center marked the end of a successful festival, filled with unforgettable performances by all the groups who participated. BYU Folk Dance Ensemble’s journey through Puerto Vallarta was nothing short of magical, and they look forward to more performances and new adventures in the southern United States next week!

Seoul-ful Beginnings for BYU’s Noteworthy and Vocal Point

After a day of extensive travel, Noteworthy and Vocal Point finally landed in Seoul, South Korea, and headed to Changwon to prep for their debut performance at the prestigious MBC Gyeongnam Hall. There they astounded the audience with their a cappella renditions, showcasing their vocal prowess and stage presence. The following day, the groups made their way to Cheongju for another enthralling performance, this time at the Cheongju Arts Center.   Friday, May 3, the groups took a tour of the Korean Demilitarized Zone, the historic buffer zone between North Korea and South Korea. Surrounded by reminders of conflict and diplomacy, the students gained a deeper understanding of the Korean Peninsula’s complex dynamics and pondered the concepts of peace and unity in the face of division. Afterward, Noteworthy began filming their upcoming music video in the dynamic city of Seoul.   The excitement continued early Saturday morning with more filming for Noteworthy, while Vocal Point hosted an a cappella workshop in Yeongdeungpo-gu, providing an engaging experience for fans and aspiring musicians. That evening, both groups delivered an exhilarating performance at KBS Hall, leaving the 1,400 audience members longing for an encore.   On Sunday, the groups welcomed some well-deserved downtime. They attended church and explored the rich history and natural splendor of the region, including Gyeongbokgung Palace, a historic building dating back to 1395. They finished the day with an inspiring devotional at the Gangnam chapel, where they interacted with local members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and made new friends.   Though the tour has only just begun, Noteworthy and Vocal Point have already crafted unforgettable memories in South Korea. Stay tuned as they journey to Mongolia and Japan in the weeks ahead!

Synthesis and Young Ambassadors Depart for International Tours

Synthesis began their trip to Europe on May 1, enjoying an overnight flight to Amsterdam from Salt Lake City. Some of Brigham Young University’s finest and most versatile musicians, the band members look forward to performing in the iconic cities of Utrecht, Brussels, and Mannheim as they tour throughout the Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany. In cobblestone streets and historic venues, Synthesis aims not only to entertain but to unite audiences through the universal language of music. On May 7, the Young Ambassadors said goodbye to Provo and set out on their long journey to China. Traveling all day on May 8, they finally touched down for a layover in South Korea before landing in Guangzhou, China, on May 9 and jumping right into their busy schedule. The Young Ambassadors are thrilled to begin their tour and to spend the next three weeks learning from the rich cultures of China and sharing their own artistic excellence with the people they will meet along their way. Follow Synthesis and the Young Ambassadors as they carry the spirit of BYU with them and seek to learn, grow, serve, and perform across the globe in the coming weeks.