Sharing the Joy of Jazz

BYU Synthesis performs in front of the 1,750-year-old St. Peter’s Cathedral in Trier, Germany, during an annual jazz festival.

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. 

Dr. Ben Nichols of BYU Synthesis directs the group at Stuttgart High School in Germany on May 17, wearing the Stuttgart High hoodie gifted to him by the local band teacher.

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. 

BYU Synthesis guitarist Sam Handley (right) teaches one of the students at Stuttgart High School in Germany some tips during a band workshop before their concert.

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. 

BYU Synthesis visits the Frankfurt Germany Temple.

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. 

Members of BYU Synthesis in Hermeskeil, Germany, perform with students from the local high school.

During a band workshop before their concert, BYU Synthesis drummer Jacob Ward (right) teaches one of the students at Stuttgart High School in Germany.