On the edge of the Brigham Young University campus is a sign inviting all to “Enter to Learn – Go Forth to Serve.” Every spring and summer for the past 50 years, a select number of students are given the opportunity to put that challenge to the test while performing around the globe, from quaint towns nestled in the Midwest to some of the world’s most exotic destinations.
Amid praises of “absolutely amazing,” “musical excellence” and “a moving performance” were messages of sincere appreciation and deep gratitude for the service these students render.
The Young Ambassadors ventured to the southernmost portion of Africa to delight audiences there with their Broadway-style show, “Harmony: The Music of Life.” While busy with performances in cities like Johannesburg, Cape Town,and Soweto, the Young Ambassadors were also able to make special visits to a number of orphanages.
One of the most memorable stops on the tour was the Sparrows Nest AIDS Village, an orphanage that provides housing and treatment for children affected with AIDS. The group played games, danced,and sang with the children before handing out care packages to them.
“Outreaches allow you to have that one-on-one interaction,” said Brad Robins, Young Ambassador student president. “On stage all you can see are spotlights, but when you’re at an outreach you can see and feel the impact you have on people. The reason I did Young Ambassadors was for these outreach opportunities. Performances are almost like a stepping stone you go through to get to those priceless moments.”
Across the Atlantic, the BYU Singers used the lessons learned from conductor Ronald Staheli and held a choral exhibition and master class with 60 students at the City of Norwich School in Norwich, England, teaching them the basics of choral technique.
The Wind Symphony worked with a younger group of students, making music interactive by playing games with the students at Dovestrasse Elementary School in Hamburg, Germany. Children identified instruments by their sound and practiced comparing them. Later during the tour, a special concert in Eisenhuttenstadt, Germany, benefited two schools from the area-,one of which is a special music school for young children.
While in India, Contemporary Dance Theatre helped with 13 workshops at dance studios, grade schools and universities. One memorable afternoon something unforgettable happened at Rising Star Outreach, a school to help children who have family members diagnosed with leprosy. Rather than allowing these children to be ostracized from society, the school works to educate them and has even created a dance team that performs in the surrounding cities to raise awareness of those impacted unfairly by leprosy. Contemporary Dance Theatre had the opportunity to perform for the children as well as teach dance workshops for all the students at the school.
Indian dancers are very interested in contemporary technique and were eager to learn from BYU’s performing group. Contemporary Dance Theatre worked with several influential dance companies that are leading the contemporary dance movement in India.
There were also plenty of tours that occurred stateside. The BYU Folk Dancers toured four Southern states in a three-week period. While in Louisiana, the group had a special outreach performance at the Magnolia School, a school for adults with learning disabilities. The group performed a shorter version of their show and then invited audience members to dance with them.
“Folk dance, more than any other dance form, is the dance of the people,” said Nell Cunningham, a member of the Folk Dance team. “We’re all a part of this world, and we can find joy in celebrating what we have in common.”
The service rendered isn’t always by way of song and dance. While touring in Nauvoo, the men of the Ballroom Dance Company helped to excavate areas of the Joseph Smith homestead owned by the Community of Christ Church. The team helped to search for artifacts and other historical items by removing sod, digging out dirt,and removing rocks and debris.
Minutes away, the women of the team helped to organize and clean out the offices of the Nauvoo Chamber of Commerce.
“The Chamber had recently moved into these offices, and they were in sad shape,” said Rex Barrington, artist manager for the team. “They dusted, moved furniture, vacuumed, rearranged things and cleaned windows. It was a major project, badly needed.”
Also touring in Nauvoo were the Living Legends, a group that combines the cultures of the Native American, Latin American and Pacific Island peoples. There was almost never a moments of rest for the group as their days were packed with two or three outreaches followed by a late night performance.
These performance tours provide opportunities for students and leaders alike to live BYU’s belief motto, “Enter to Learn-Go Forth to Serve.” Through music, song, dance, and, as well as, special opportunities for outreach, every tour is a success. By serving those they meet in different states and countries, friendships are formed and lives are touched.
For more information, visit pam.byu.edu or call 801-422-3576.