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School of Music

Pianist Spencer Hodgson Prayerfully Navigates Shifting Career Path

Hodgson — from Sandy, Utah — will graduate with a BM in music performance with an emphasis in piano on April 24, 2020

For piano performance student Spencer Hodgson, music has always been more than a career path — it’s a fundamental part of the way he experiences and expresses his spirituality. “What draws me to music is the amazing spiritual and emotional experiences that it creates,” said Hodgson. “There are countless pieces that have made me feel the Spirit and increased my testimony.” From a young age, Hodgson knew he wanted to work toward becoming a concert pianist, and he came to BYU already aware of and eager to study with School of Music faculty members such as Scott Holden — but Hodgson’s long-time goals unexpectedly shifted after his mission. “After careful reflection, I decided a performance career wasn’t the best option for me or what I really wanted in my life,” said Hodgson. “As of right now, I plan on teaching part-time and working in other areas like insurance or business.” Despite this change of course, the School of Music remained an ideal home for Hodgson as he continued to hone his craft and develop skills applicable both in and outside of the music world.

“One of the best learning experiences I had at BYU was being able to participate in the piano symposium that BYU did my freshman semester in 2013,” said Hodgson. “I was able to meet other piano performance majors across the country and learn an incredible amount from them. This experience taught me the value of meeting other colleagues in your field and how to make great contacts.” Early on in his major, Hodgson performed as a featured student soloist in the BYU Symphony Orchestra’s Concerto Night. He was selected after winning the annual concerto competition, auditioning alongside his fellow first and second-year students across the School of Music. “That was one of my best achievements at BYU,” he said. “It was the first and only time I got to play as a solo pianist with a great orchestra, and it was an amazing experience.” Throughout every opportunity that came his way and in every decision he had to make during his undergraduate experience, Hodgson felt the power and peace that comes through prayer. “One thing I have learned at BYU and in pursuing a degree — or any kind of career choice — is that it's crucial to seek inspiration and guidance from the Lord,” said Hodgson. “It's very hard to have a clear perspective all the time, especially when making big life choices, so prayer and seeking the Spirit is huge.” Hodgson offered advice to students who are just beginning their journey in the piano performance major. “To anyone starting out in this major, I would say how important it is to try to make good friends with everyone else in the piano major, as well as branch out elsewhere,” he said. “BYU's School of Music has a great non-competitive vibe, and it helps so much to have those friends later in life. And also, take advantage of all the great performances there, and practice a lot!”

Q&A WITH SPENCER HODGSON, BM ‘20 MUSIC | MUSIC PERFORMANCE: PIANO

What did you want to be when you grew up? “When I was 11, I remember going to see a concert at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City, and seeing a Russian pianist play Rachmaninov's Second Piano Concerto with the Orchestra at Temple Square. I had already been taking piano for a couple of years by then, but after that night I decided I wanted to be able to do what I had seen and be a great performer like that — I decided I wanted to be a concert pianist.”

What was your favorite class that you took at BYU? “My favorite class I took at BYU was Foundations of the Restoration. This is a fascinating class that looks into Joseph Smith's life and the restoration of the Church.” Is there a specific work or practitioner in your field that has had a particular influence on you? “I've always loved reading about the great composers and the incredible lives many of them had. One that I've always admired is J.S. Bach. Almost all of Bach's music is dedicated to God, and even though he lived 250 years ago, his music is still as relevant as ever. Even in the worst circumstances — such as the death of one of his children — he would still create the most inspired, divine pieces.” Do you have a hidden talent or a hobby outside of what you do for your major? I don't have a lot of talents or hobbies outside of music, but I love playing basketball.” What is your favorite snack for between classes? White cheddar Cheez-Its.”

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