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Music Major Josie Larsen on Importance of Self-expression and Rediscovery

Larsen — a native of Sammamish, Wash. — will graduate in April with a BA in vocal performance

Singing is an essential part of the past, present and future for vocal performance major Josie Larsen. Larsen is one of two students chosen to represent the School of Music for the 2021 convocation. She will record a vocal performance of “Spring Waters” by Rachmaninoff, with senior Greg Smith on piano. “I always had this huge idea and dream to go to BYU,” said Larsen, who is from Sammamish, Washington. Rather than attend a music conservatory or arts school with a narrower focus, she believed BYU would provide a more well-rounded education. Her interest in singing began at age 11, after piano lessons didn’t pan out. “I hated it and I wasn’t good at it,” Larsen said. She started voice lessons instead, though by age 14 she still didn’t know if it was a good fit. She decided to pray for guidance. “I remember vividly that after praying about it, I knew I should keep singing, and knew that it was something I would do for my career,” she said. Larsen’s vocal talent speaks for itself. She has been a member of the BYU Singers, the top choral group in the School of Music, since her freshman year. Still, being asked to perform for convocation took her by surprise. “I’m very excited, humbled and grateful,” she said. “There are so many other students who are qualified.” Larsen has experienced her share of disruption and disappointment due to COVID. The BYU campus closed down just two days before her senior recital in March 2020. “I felt emotional whiplash that whole week,” she said. “We rescheduled at least three times within two days.” Her parents, who had planned to fly in from Washington to see her perform, had to cancel their flight. At the last minute, some friends of the family with a baby grand piano volunteered their home as a venue. Larsen streamed her recital from there. Singing in a choir during the pandemic presented its own set of challenges, but students and faculty were able to make it work by wearing masks, doing temperature checks and using high-grade air purifiers in the rehearsal space. As president of the BYU Singers this year, Larsen did her part to help things run smoothly. “It took time to figure out the rules so we could still be a unified group and maintain that uplifting and encouraging environment we all love,” she said. One of her most memorable experiences at BYU was an opportunity to sing for the concert film version of Rob Gardner’s “Lamb of God” oratorio. “I absolutely loved that experience,” she said. “After being weighed down by all the stresses of COVID, it helped me renew my passion for the gospel and for singing.” Larsen has applied to several grad schools, and is excited about the possibilities that the future holds. “I haven’t officially decided what I’ll do yet, but I would truly love to perform around the world and fully immerse myself in other cultures,” she said. “The arts have given me a way to express what I’m feeling and what I believe in an articulate way,” she said. “Every time I perform, my goal is to help someone in the audience to feel uplifted.” Throughout her years as an undergraduate, Larsen has learned not to take singing for granted. “It’s something I have to hold on to and rediscover over and over again,” she said. “Like anything in the arts, it’s easy to get weighed down. I hope that my two-minute performance will encourage people to go forward with hope and faith and continue to do what they love.”