Concert Choir Lands American Prize Honor

The Buena Vista University Concert Choir was named a semifinalist in the prestigious American Prize national nonprofit competition in the performing arts. It is the only choir in Iowa to be selected.

The Buena Vista University Concert Choir this week was named a semifinalist in the prestigious American Prize national nonprofit competition in the performing arts, the only Iowa choir tabbed for the honor.

Judges examined 25 minutes of recordings of the choir throughout 2017 and 2018, segments of nine concerts directed by Dr. Merrin Guice, BVU’s director of vocal studies. Music selections ranged in genre from early classical music to modern classical music. A variety of composers were picked as well, including women, African-American, and Hindi composers.

“I screamed when I learned we had made it because I know it is so tough to get there. The energy and the hard work of our students at BVU allowed this to happen.”

Dr. Merrin Guice

“Oh my gosh!” Guice responds when asked of her reaction to learning that BVU’s choir earned a place on the lists of semifinalists. “It is such an honor to make it into the semifinals, especially when we consider how many colleges and universities across the country would have auditioned.”

Six such entities joining BVU in the semifinal round represent universities or colleges that have schools of music. Guice says she’s amazed and humbled by her singers, many of whom aren’t music majors.

“The majority of our performers are not music majors,” she says. “And many of those students don’t do choir for class credit. They are here because they enjoy it, because it’s fun to learn and to perform.”

Guice lauded the 2018 seniors for their role in helping raise the level of the BVU Concert Choir. “We had many seniors last year and they really developed in their four years here,” Guice says. “They worked on their craft, they took private voice lessons, and they rose to the occasion.”

Professional musicians and professors emeriti from schools of music across the country will now work to adjudicate the group of semifinalists before officials with The American Prize announce finalists later this spring. The top three finalists will receive monetary awards.

Guice thanked Dr. Bethany Larson, professor of theatre, and several music production majors at BVU for their roles in recording the selections at concerts throughout parts of the past two academic years. Eight concerts took place in Schaller Memorial Chapel, while one, the Christmas concert, was staged at Lakeside Presbyterian Church in Storm Lake.

The American Prize, which celebrates American excellence in the arts, was founded in 2009 and has awarded these honors since 2010. Schools of all sizes entered the contest. 

“You could have a 100-plus person choir or a choir of 25 students, you are competing against the best to make it to the semifinal round,” Guice says. “I screamed when I learned we had made it because I know it is so tough to get there. The energy and the hard work of our students at BVU allowed this to happen.”

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