The Warren M. Angell College of Fine Arts Division of Music will present a special benefit concert, “The Classroom Partners Benefit Piano Recital.” The recital will be held Tuesday, Nov. 27 at 7:30 p.m. in Raley Chapel’s Yarborough Auditorium. All proceeds will benefit Shawnee Middle and High School Choir Programs and donations will be accepted at the door. Those interested may also give to benefit the Shawnee Choir Programs by visiting the OBU giving page or by clicking the “Give” button at the top of the website. On the giving page, choose the designation, “OBU-Shawnee Chorale Benefit Concert.”
Shawnee Forward’s Classroom Partners began in 2018. Partners are paired with classrooms in Shawnee and are able to support them by meeting critical needs for their students. This program allows a business and individual to see the impact they have made in the classroom first hand.
Bradley Hetherington, senior piano performance major, began preparations for this recital with a few other students in the Division of Music of the College of Fine Arts.
“The idea came from several different people,” Hetherington said. “Some of my fellow classmates have always talked about doing a fun piano recital.”
This dream became a reality this summer when Hetherington reached out to the Shawnee Forward’s Classroom Partners program and was then put in contact with choir directors at Shawnee High School and Shawnee Middle School, Justin and Melissa Lee. The Lees are both OBU alumni.
Since the Lees came to Shawnee, they have revived the program, growing the choirs in number and accolades. With numerous students making all-district and all-state honor choirs, with their choral groups achieving high ratings in regional and state competitions, and with enrollment in their programs exploding over the last five years, the Shawnee Choir program is seeing tremendous success under their leadership and is poised for a great future. Opportunities continue to grow for their students, and the high school choir is taking a group to New York in late May to perform at Carnegie Hall, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
The program also founded the Shawnee Choirs Booster Club this year, an organization created to help raise funds for the program in order to offer the most outstanding choral music education experience possible for students in the middle school and high school choirs. With the growth of the program and with reductions in state funding for education over the last several years, it is critical for the choirs to raise funds to pay their expenses for contest entry fees, travel expenses, music expenses, and more.
Hetherington is excited to play a role in raising funds to help the program continue to grow and offer life-changing opportunities for these students.
“After thinking about it [a benefit recital] for a while, I decided to explore the options of making it a reality,” Hetherington said. “Many great opportunities are merely talked about, and I wanted this to actually happen. I want the community to know that OBU cares.”
Hetherington, whose mother is a school teacher at a public school in Oklahoma, has grown up around education. He also fondly remembers his time in choir in middle and high school. He wanted to do everything he could to help choir students in the Shawnee Public School system have a similar experience.
“I knew that I wanted to show the love of Christ to the community somehow,” he said. “I knew that I wanted to impact the music community in Shawnee.”
Senior vocal performance major Julie Welch also played a big role in making this event a reality. She believes in this recital and hopes to raise funds and support for the choir programs of Shawnee.
“I think it is important to support music education in our public schools,” Welch said. “Music is universal, it’s powerful, relatable, raw, and it’s a creation that comes from the soul.”
She also expressed her interest in this recital becoming an annual event. This would allow for music students in Shawnee to benefit for years to come from all of the hard work OBU students have put into this recital.
“Ultimately, our goal with this event is to share the love of Christ through music,” she said. “If someone in the future wants to take it on, Bradley has already made the connections.”
The recital will feature many OBU students along with past and present OBU faculty. Performers include Dr. Michael Dean, professor of music; Dr. Abigail Mace, assistant professor of music/director of preparatory department; Dr. Louima Lilite, associate professor of music; Dr. Christopher Mathews, dean of the Warren M. Angell College of Fine Arts; Dr. Keith Whitmore, former assistant professor of instrumental music and staff accompanist; Dr. Carol Bell, retired professor of piano; Dr. Ron Lewis, professor emeritus of music; Dephanie Lilite, Anastasia Abu Bakar, Bradley Hetherington, Rachel Foote, Rachel Darvin, Mitchell Manlapig, Emilie Griffin and Landon Johnson.
All proceeds will benefit Shawnee Middle and High School Choir Programs and donations will be accepted at the door. Those interested may also give to benefit the Shawnee Choir Programs by visiting the OBU giving page at www.okbu.edu/giving or by clicking the “Give” button at the top of the website. On the giving page, choose the designation, “OBU-Shawnee Chorale Benefit Concert.”