Singing with the Stars

by Kate Sullivan '15

The stainless steel twists and turns of the Walt Disney Concert Hall stand out against the stark contrast of Downtown Los Angeles’s vertical skyscrapers. Designed by architect Frank Gehry, the hall serves as a one-of-a-kind venue for people to gather who appreciate music. The hall boasts one of the world’s greatest acoustics, as well as a 6,134–pipe organ. On September 30, a select group of 12 of Azusa Pacific University’s top choral students took the stage of the Walt Disney Concert Hall, performing with the acclaimed Los Angeles Philharmonic alongside an internationally renown conductor in honor of a legendary composer, during their Opening Night Gala Concert, “A Celebration of John Williams.” The night raised more than $3.5 million for LA Philharmonic’s educational and music programs.

Founded in 1919, the LA Philharmonic boasts a leading Southern California performing arts institute and works to lead orchestra into the 21st century through innovative programming. The orchestra plays at both the Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Hollywood Bowl, and is broadcast internationally, reaching 3.7 billion listeners. Under the direction of music director Gustavo Dudamel, APU music students helped launch the orchestra into its 96th season before a host of celebrities, city officials, and government leaders. Philharmonics Conductor Dudamel began his role during the 2009–10 season, and in 2011, he agreed to stay through 2018–19, ensuring his spot as director during the orchestra’s 100th year anniversary. In 2011, Dudamel and the LA Philharmonic won a Grammy in Best Orchestral Performance for their recording of the Brahms “Symphony No. 4.”

“It was a real honor for me to be asked to prepare our singers to put this piece together for John Williams and conductor Gustavo Dudamel,” said John Sutton, DMA, associate professor and chair of choral activities. “I was excited to share this opportunity with some of my best students and see them represent our university with such professionalism, musicianship, and joy.”

The LA Philharmonic paid tribute to Williams with a concert featuring Itzhak Perlman, original violinist for Schindler’s List. Throughout his career, he has won 5 Academy Awards, 4 Golden Globes, 7 British Academy File Awards, and 21 Grammy Awards. With 49 Academy Award nominations, Williams is the second most-nominated person, after Walt Disney. William’s famous film scores include Jaws, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan, War Horse, and Lincoln.

With Williams in the audience, Dudamel led the orchestra through a myriad of his compositions, including the Olympic fanfare of 1984 Olympics, three pieces from Schindler’s List, and “The Throne Room” and “Finale” from Star Wars. Under the supervision of Sutton, APU students performed “Dry Your Tears, Afrika” from the movie Amistad, along with the LA Philharmonic.

“We are delighted that our students are recognized for their outstanding artistry and engaging on such national-level platforms,” said Stephen P. Johnson, DMA, dean of the College of Music and Arts. “ These students performed alongside some of the best musicians in the world. This opportunity reflects our connection to artistic life in Los Angeles and our industry-engaged faculty artists who prepare our students.”