Conservatory

Why I Came to Wheaton's Conservatory of Music

Posted September 23, 2016 by Abigail Beerwart '19

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In all honesty, Wheaton wasn’t even on my radar when I was looking for a college to attend. Sure, I had heard of it, but it wasn’t a name that I had committed to memory. I wanted to be in an incredible music program, especially one that excelled in the vocal/opera department. I was convinced, however, that a Christian school just could not meet my standards. But now I see just how wrong I was!

I had some family friends practically beg me to check out Wheaton–their son graduated from Wheaton a few years back with a piano performance degree–so I finally, although somewhat grudgingly, agreed to visit. I scheduled an appointment to meet with Dr. Carolyn Hart, the Chair of Voice at the Conservatory of Music, so that I might understand what Wheaton had to offer for an aspiring opera singer such as myself. The arduous drive to Wheaton, which included driving through a blizzard, had my mother and I exchanging glances that asked, “What have we gotten ourselves into?” However, from the moment I set foot on campus, I knew that I had finally found it: my second home. 

Every individual with whom I interacted on that visit was warm, genuine, and overflowing with the love of Christ. The music program offered everything I could have possibly wanted: rigor, performance opportunities, and a huge focus on vocal health. Most importantly, I saw how the school truly did do everything “For Christ and His Kingdom.”

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When we finished our visit, my mother and I got in our car and sat for a moment before beginning our drive home. My mom asked, “So, what do you think?” For a beat I looked at the Conservatory before me, draped in a sparkling white robe of snow, before I turned to her and answered, “I can’t imagine going anywhere else!”

Jumping ahead to today, I am beginning my second year in Wheaton’s Conservatory of Music, and I have become friends with some of the kindest and most encouraging students and faculty imaginable. They genuinely care about me, pushing me to do more than I ever thought I could, and they lend a listening ear when I need it. My classes have propelled me forward, allowing me to understand and appreciate music like never before. My musicianship and vocal abilities have skyrocketed in ways that leave me dumbfounded. All of these wonderful experiences at Wheaton have solidified in me one simple, but meaningful, response: to praise God. 

The Conservatory of Music has fed me relationally, intellectually, musically, and spiritually, so obviously I still can’t imagine going to school anywhere else! That’s #MyWheaton.

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Abigail Beerwart ’19 is a sophomore studying vocal performance in opera through Wheaton College’s Conservatory of Music. Photo captions (from top): McAlister Hall, Wheaton's Conservatory of Music; student performers after the 2015 Opera Music Theater production of Benjamin Britten's Noye's Fludde; Abigail with Conservatory of Music classmates. 

#MyWheaton: Amazing Grace

Posted May 19, 2016 by Robin Kong '16

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“Ordinary” is not necessarily the best word to describe the past couple of years at Wheaton College. The College suffered from multiple incidents and divisive responses about such incidents from society. Seeing the media quite frequently bashing on my College that I love was definitely one of my lowest points of this year.

While mourning and being heartbroken for the College and its separations, I wondered if there was any fundamental belief that could draw an absolute and complete agreement from anyone on campus.

Romans 8:28 says: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” To give hope to those who, like me, mourn for the separation of campus, I decided to produce a musical project based on the message of the unity of Christ. The mission statement of project was simple: get students from very different places of Wheaton – the Conservatory and the football team, for instance – to sing about the same thing – the grace of Christ.

With the short amount of time I had left in the school year, I had to move quickly. First, I contacted my friend Adam Lindgren ’16 and asked for an all-voice arrangement of “Amazing Grace.” I could not find a better song or better arranger to represent the message of unity through voices. Next, I reached out to multiple people and asked for their musical participation on this project. I contacted the presidents of different organizations on campus and asked for a participant from each group as a representative. Each artist, by participating on this project, supports the purpose of this project by representing his or her group. Last, to be able to advertise the final product to the student body, parents, faculty and staff members, I came up with the name of this project – Project UNITY. 

During the journey, I was blown away by the number of participants and the amount of willingness of each and every musician who was on board. I was able to record 30 artists, and though my time at studio was sometimes quite exhausting, their enthusiasm and passion constantly reminded me of why I started this project in the first place. With a total of 80 hours in Shea studio with lots of encouragements and help from different friends, I reached the end of the journey last week and launched the final product of Project UNITY ("Amazing Grace," above). 

I thank my advisors, helpers, and musicians who were with me this entire journey – this mix is meaningful not because of its quality, but because of its message behind it, and this message could not have been delivered if it weren’t for them. I thank Wheaton College for providing me such an awesome opportunity to witness Christ during this entire process. Finally, I thank God for bringing us unity, and giving us an ability to praise and sing for His glory. 

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Each singer who participated on this project represents the organization or club that he/she is involved in: Student Government, College Union, Gospel Choir, Swing Club, Resident Life, Track Team, Diakonoi, Discipleship Small Group, Men's Glee Club, Football, Concert Choir, Arena Theater, Amplify, Summer Ministry Program, Phonathon, Women's Chorale, Mu Kappa, Thundertones, Koinonia, the Wheaton Record, and many more. Adam Lindgren '16, Lucian Taylor '17, and Brian Porick '98 recorded, mixed, and mastered the project, and artists who participated on this project include Aly Vukelich '17, Matt Zuckermann '17, Andrea Artis '16, Emily Lengel '16, Josh Knowlton '17, Sola Olateju '17, Jenny Ruda '18, Peter Fenton '17, Peter Desrosier '16, Joshua Buzz Aldrin '16, Lydia Saldanha '17, Brittany Blue '16, Emma Camillone '18, Catherine Hall '18, Luke Goodman '18, Katherine Harrison '18, Kiersten Williams '18, Emma Baker '17, Elizabeth Bretscher '19, Eugenia Kang '16, Sarah Han '16, David Batdorf '16, Elliot Franklin '17, Austin Odling '18, Lucas Anholzer '18, Calvin Brown '16, Jeff Burge '17, Charles Nystrom '18, and Kirkland An '17. 

Rigor & Transformation: My Experience with Music Education at Wheaton

Posted January 20, 2016 by David Batdorf '16

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My experience as a music education major at Wheaton has been marked by rigor and transformation. Early in high school I found myself muttering, seemingly void of inspiration, the ambiguous phrase, “I want to impact kids’ lives.” At the time, what I really wanted was an impressive performance career, but for the sake of job security, I “settled” for music education. Now, as I begin my last semester at Wheaton, I’m so thankful that God used my misguided motivation to bring me into the music education department at Wheaton. 

Music education is considered by many to be the most demanding major at Wheaton. Whether or not this is true, it was demanding enough to quickly challenge my motivation: do I really love music and people? What will motivate me to wake upevery day and pour into students? What will keep me from burning out?

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Wheaton did not expose these questions without providing resources for answers. A spring break trip led to an internship which staged a gospel-driven, heart-transforming summer. Professors invited me into their offices and lives, offering friendship, challenges, and opportunity. Friends shared meals with me and, while we ate, offered their passion for Jesus and his work. In its rigor, music education exposed me to questions that could only be satisfied by Jesus. When I began to discover his heart I found that it loves beauty, relationship, and work. God loves music education because He made everything about it.

I want to impact kids’ lives. The once ambiguous phrase is now poignant and inspirational. I want to share Jesus through music because through it, Jesus has found me.

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David Batdorf '16 is a senior music education major with a French horn concentration. Visit the Wheaton Conservatory website to learn more about Wheaton's music education program.

Photo Captions: David hiking in New Hampshire; David with the Symphonic Band French horn section

My Life as a Film Composer at Wheaton

Posted September 30, 2015 by Elliot Leung '17

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As much as I'd love to avoid the truth, I came to Wheaton from Hong Kong with the hopes of pursuing a girl—without knowing what Wheaton was all about! That pursuit didn’t work out for me, but some lessons are learned the hard way.

The best thing about Wheaton is the atmosphere and the people—they are so friendly! For example, when I first asked a Conservatory of Music classmate to play a concert piece of mine, I was planning to establish a business relationship: I pay him, he plays it, he takes the money, we part ways. However, that wasn't how things went. I ended up becoming friends with him, and that's what is unique about this place. Wheaton has people who are encouraging, supportive, and who genuinely care about what you do and are happy for your accomplishments.

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I've spent one-on-one lesson times with all four music composition professors in the Conservatory of Music. Private composition lessons helped me the most since they tailor the education for my specific needs.  My favorite professor is Dr. Sommerville. I've had him for three years in a row now and since most of my film music is set for orchestra, I usually send him either cues or orchestrations for comments. Even though it's not related to Dr. Sommerville's work, he gives me very practical pointers and highlights the good parts. It's a constant joy learning from him.

Two summers ago, I helped with the score for my first cinema film called 暴瘋語 (Insanity) released in all major cinemas in Asia. I freelance on a regular basis. Some commissioning highlights in the U.S. include composing Beverly Hills Vista School's graduation fanfare (Los Angeles) and placing music on the Miss Indiana Pageant event. I just got hired to be the lead composer of a cinema film called Lost in Hong Kong (to be released in Hong Kong in July 2015) because of my musical ability, but more because of my attitude, according to the producer.

I'm fortunate enough to be in a place in life where I thought I would be when I'm 30 right now because of the community's constant support, individualized training, and God's grace. Thanks to Wheaton, I became a happier person and I cannot stress more how great the community here is.

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Elliot Leung ’17 is a junior music composition major from Hong Kong. To experience his work, visit his website. Photo captions: Elliot conducts scoring sessions and concert music performances, visits and networks with companies including DreamWorks, and performs his pieces in a contemporary concert. Learn more about Wheaton's Conservatory of Music on their website.

Opera Music Theater at Wheaton

Posted January 23, 2015 by Hannah Benson '15

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As someone who can’t remember a time before she was involved in singing for other people, it’s perhaps unsurprising that vocal performance major Hannah Benson ’15 has found a home in Wheaton’s Conservatory of Music.

“I love the way that studying voice makes me feel,” Hannah says. “I’m creating the sound physically, and it’s a very rewarding major to me because of that.”

As one of the lead roles in Wheaton’s Opera Music Theater production of Dido and Aeneas, Hannah has had ample opportunity to exercise her vocal talent in a community of fellow artists.

“I love the people in the conservatory,” she says. “Because there are so few of us and we’re constantly in the same building, we get to know each other really well. It becomes a really close-knit community.”

From Hannah’s perspective, this community includes professors, too. Working closely with well-trained professionals is made even more beneficial when paired with small class sizes and ensembles in which all participants know one another by name.

“It’s really rewarding in both the academic and emotional aspects,” Hannah says. “It’s been awesome.”

Hannah Benson '15 is a senior studying vocal performance in the Conservatory of Music. Learn more about her dreams and aspirations on her author bio page.

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