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Education Beyond the Classroom: CFAC Students Travel the World for Experiential Learning Opportunities

Students From the College of Fine Arts and Communications (CFAC) Travel Nationally and Internationally to Gain Real-World Experience and Share Their Talents While Studying Abroad, Competing, Interning & Performing

Photo by Kirra Eddington/BYU CFAC

Each spring and summer, students in BYU’s College of Fine Arts and Communications take the knowledge and skills they have learned in the classroom and make their mark on communities across the globe. From New York to China, students traveled and brought back to campus impactful learning experiences as they continued their studies. Read more to see what the students are learning during May 2024.

School of Communications | UNESCO World Press Freedom Conference in Santiago, Chile

Amy Ortiz, Bryan Barba and Ed Carter at the Top of Santa Lucia, Photo Courtesy of Amy Ortiz

On May 4, Professor Ed Carter presented academic research at the UNESCO World Press Freedom Conference in Santiago, Chile. He was joined by journalism students Amy Ortiz and Bryan Barba who reported on the conference. Following the conference, they spent three days on the Patagonian island of Chiloe for a journalism project on how the local culture will be affected by the pending construction of the first-ever bridge connecting the island to the mainland.

Ortiz enjoyed the opportunity to participate in a professional setting as well as learn from her experience abroad. “It is one thing to learn journalism in the classroom and a completely different and enriching experience to see it in another part of the world,” said Ortiz. “At the UNESCO World Press Freedom Day Conference we were able to rub shoulders with journalists and other professionals from around the world and learn more about the importance of journalism, as well as the issues current journalists face in the field. Our time in Chiloe and the interactions we had with the island’s inhabitants were also very impactful.”

School of Communications | Journalism Students Film Documentary in Denmark

Lynnette McConkie, Emma Butler Price, Annika Ohran and Alice Gubler Recording B-Roll of Edvard Eriksen’s statue, “The Little Mermaid,” in Copenhagen, Denmark
Photo by Melissa Gibbs

Journalism students Emma Butler Price, Alice Gubler, Lynnette McConkie and Annika Ohran traveled to Denmark for nine days to make a documentary about the original Christus statue by sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen. The students were accompanied by professional staff mentors Melissa Gibbs and Alan Neves. This capstone project combined everything the students have learned throughout their time in the journalism program.

“During this educational trip we had the opportunity to experience a different place and culture, interact with a diverse group of people and utilize our skills learned in the classroom in the real world,” said Butler Price. “It's an experience I'll never forget and one that will assist me as I transition from life as a student to life as a professional communicator. I'm so grateful that BYU prioritizes experiential learning programs like this. The world truly is our campus.”

The documentary will address the impact the Christus statue has had on people of faith, especially members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints community. The students shot more than 600 gigabytes of video footage, conducted 13 interviews and were able to see more of Denmark. The documentary will premiere during fall semester 2024.

Department of Dance | Ballroom Dance Company Africa Tour

The BYU Ballroom Dance Company and Local Leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints With US ambassador to Botswana, Howard A. Van Vranken, Photo Courtesy of BYU Performing Arts Management

The Ballroom Dance Company traveled to Africa to perform, foster cultural exchanges, participate in community outreach, lead service projects and engage in devotionals. Their tour took them to South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. They made BYU history by being the first performing group to visit Mozambique. While in Africa, they worked with groups such as No Poor Among Us and the Zimpeto Children’s Centre and visited the Windybow Arts Centre, where they read to local children and helped them with their English.

After an interview with Duma FM, students worked with the radio station and missionaries to clean up litter in Bokaa, Botswana. The dancers had the opportunity to lunch with Howard A. Van Vranken, the U.S. ambassador to Botswana, and participated in a cultural exchange with Mafitlhakgosi, the traditional dance group from Old Naledi, one of the oldest townships in Gaborone. One of their many performances was held at the University of Botswana’s Indoor Sports Arena with a 1,500 person audience. The company attended the temple in Johannesburg and performed at Nelson Mandela Square in Sandton, South Africa.

“We were introduced to ‘Ubuntu,’ a Bantu word that describes a set of African values that emphasize the interconnectedness of individuals. It is sometimes translated as ‘I am because we are,’” said Ballroom Dance Company director Curt Holman. “Opportunities to interact with the cultures and people of Africa have been the most enriching. Service projects, cultural exchanges and YSA devotionals have left indelible prints on our hearts.”

Department of Dance | Contemporary Dance Theatre in New York

CDT Dancers Performing at Gibney Studios
Photo by McCall McClellan

BYU’s top contemporary performing company, Contemporary Dance Theatre (CDT), culminated their season by traveling to New York City to take classes and perform. Because of the long history of collaboration with the professional company Gibney Dance Company, students took classes at the Gibney Studios every day. These classes included release, technique, floor work, countertechnique, entrepreneurship and dance field business basics. The students had the opportunity to present a showing of their repertoire at Gibney Studios. The pieces showcased work by guest artists such as Keith Johnson, Jesse Obremski, Vanessa Cook, Courtney Mazeika and Tristan Gray. It also showcased pieces by BYU dance faculty members Nathan Balser, Liz Dibble, Kate Monson and Adam Dyer, as well as recent graduate Baylee Van Patten’s senior capstone project.

“The trip was packed with experiences for synthesizing what students have learned on campus with what is currently happening in the NYC dance field and for observing high level artistry to inform their personal creative process,” said CDT director Kate Monson. “I was blown away not only by how prepared our students were to integrate into the NYC dance field but also for the integrity, kindness and unity they showed throughout the trip. We'd like to thank the Department of Dance for making this important culminating experience possible with financial support.”

Department of Dance | Young Ambassadors Celebrate 45th Anniversary of BYU in China

The Young Ambassadors on Stage in Hangzhou, Photo Courtesy of BYU Performing Arts Management

BYU Young Ambassador students embarked on a tour that commemorated the 45th anniversary of BYU in China. Their travels included performances in the cities of Guangzhou, Hangzhou, Hefei, Yancheng, Fuyang City, Xi'an, Nanjing, Taiyuan and Tianjin. They had the opportunity to visit the Lingyin Temple and Fei Lai Feng, where they learned about China's spiritual heritage. One of their shows was attended by President Reese and his wife, Wendy; associate international vice president Jeff Ringer and his wife, Amy; and general counsel Steve Sandberg and his son John. Their entire tour showcased the incredible talents of the students, facilitated cultural exchanges and built bridges of friendship between communities across the globe.

"It's been an incredible couple of weeks on tour with BYU Young Ambassadors, Vocal Point and Noteworthy,” said President Reese. “It has been one of the highlights of my time as president so far to see these amazing students bring their talents and testimonies to each performance.”

Department of Dance | The Ballet Alliance

BYU Ballet Dancers Performing Choreography by Student Rachel Stewart, Photo Courtesy of The Ballet Alliance

BYU Theatre Ballet and Theatre Ballet Studio Company dancers attended The Ballet Alliance in Spokane, Washington. At this “association of pre-professional ballet companies,” the students took masterclasses, attended lectures and performed pieces choreographed by BYU student Rachel Stewart and BYU dance faculty Hilary Wolfley. The students had the opportunity to learn from leading industry professionals in a variety of dance styles.

Theatre Ballet student Summer Wudel said, “Dancing with other companies and studios made me see how dance brings people together and unites us as dancers, not just as individuals. Everyone [at The Ballet Alliance] was so supportive of each other and the pieces we performed. I even met some dancers that are going to be dancing in my area in the coming year.”

Department of Dance & School of Music | Folk Dance Ensemble Tour with Mountain Strings

International Folk Dance on Tour
Photo by Nick Sales

The Folk Dance Ensemble and Mountain Strings musical group toured domestically and abroad, visiting Mexico and six states in the South. Their tour included performing for local schools and community centers and shooting a new music and dance video. They presented American dance and music traditions at the Festival Aztec Vallarta International Folk Dance Festival in Mexico. In Atlanta, Georgia, the students participated in a workshop with the Uhuru Dancers, a nonprofit organization that shares African culture and performing arts. The groups also had the opportunity to meet BYU alumnus Tony Martin in a private question-and-answer session.

International Folk Dance director Jeanette Geslison said, “Meeting people from all over the world and making one-on-one connections helps students to realize the real meaning of learning and going forth to serve. [Dance] festivals teach students so much about their own cultural heritage of American dance and music traditions and it shapes and strengthens their identity as they share with others from different cultures.”

School of Music | BYU Singers Ireland Tour

BYU Singers at the Cork International Choral Festival
Photo by Sandefur Schmidt

BYU Singers toured Ireland and won first place in the Fleischmann International Trophy Competition at the Cork International Choral Festival under the direction of BYU School of Music faculty member Andrew Crane. They earned the award by besting choirs from around the world. They began the tour with a joint charity concert at St. Andrew’s Church in Dublin. They performed with New Dublin Voices and Mt. San Antonio Chamber Singers to benefit Focus Ireland. Other activities included visiting local landmarks and having dinner and a devotional with members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Cork.

“The BYU Singers experience will always remain a highlight of the students’ university and musical lives, and the strong friendships will remain across the years and miles,” wrote Sandefur Schmidt, BYU Singers longtime supporter and advocate. “This truly has been a very remarkable choir and a memorable year.”

School of Music | BYU Pipe Organ Study Tour of France and England

The BYU Pipe Organ Tour Group at Versailles
Photo by Jean-Baptise Robin, Organist at Versailles

BYU pipe organist students who toured France and England had the opportunity to play and listen to 19 of the greatest historic organs. The tour was led by BYU organ faculty members Don Cook and Neil Harmon. They also attended services in notable churches and enjoyed experiencing French and English culture. Students played music written by François Couperin, César Franck, Louis Vierne and others on the very organs where those composers wrote their pieces. “Hearing these compositions on the instruments for which they were conceived was an eye-opening experience that helped the students see the music in a new light,” Harmon said.

In addition to being able to play historic organs, students were tutored by “world class organists” who taught them about the instruments.

“I appreciated the range of organs we visited and played on—not just the organs that were musically notable but also organs that had historical significance besides that of the instrument itself,” said George Tom Sawyer, one of the student participants. “I was awed by the number of notable organists that were willing to expend time and energy to talk to us about a particular instrument.”

Another participant, Ben Tischner said, “It’s wonderful to travel and learn by experience. I was inspired more than ever before to appreciate and study the history of the instrument and music I love so much.”

School of Music | Synthesis Tour

Ben Nichols Directs Stuttgar High School Band Members, Photo Courtesy of BYU Performing Arts Management

BYU’s jazz orchestra, Synthesis, toured Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands under the direction of faculty member Ben Nichols. The trip included concerts for community members and diplomats as well as educational opportunities where Synthesis members learned from masters and advised high school students. They performed songs arranged by students in the band at Jazzfest am Dom, a yearly festival held outside the historic St. Peter’s Cathedral in Trier.

“We like to give back,” Nichols said. “For me, and for many of the students in Synthesis, opportunities to see bands (either college bands or professional bands) perform were really formative and inspiring experiences when we were young [musicians].”

School of Music & School of Communications | Vocal Point and Noteworthy Asia Tour

Noteworthy, Vocal Point, President Shane Reese, Wendy Reese, BYU Administrator Jeff Ringer and Amy Ringer in Tokyo, Photo Courtesy of BYU Performing Arts Management

Students from the School of Music and School of Communications who are a part of Vocal Point participated in the Noteworthy and Vocal Point tour to Japan, South Korea, and Mongolia. The tour was a rare pairing of the two a cappella groups and received support from the United States Embassy in Tokyo and several Japanese boards of education. In addition to playing several concert halls, they met Latter-day Saint youth and visited historic landmarks such as the Tokyo National Museum, the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and Latter-day Saint and Buddhist temples. They also shot a video in Tokyo’s Shibuya district.

President Reese attended the tour and said, “Wendy and I were moved to witness how audiences connected with the energy and light of our students.”

Women’s Chorus on Tour, Photo Courtesy of Sonja S. Poulter

School of Music | Women’s Chorus Tour

Members of BYU Women's Chorus toured Germany and Switzerland under the direction of Jennifer Youngs and Sonja Poulter. They provided workshops and concerts, fine-tuned their material and enjoyed local culture. Students had the opportunity to visit the Bern Switzerland temple.