By Lizzie Thomas | Staff Writer
The Baylor Symphony Orchestra won the American Prize for the fourth year in a row in July. No one in any category has ever had this many consecutive wins in the competition.
The American Prize is a national competition for the performing arts. Competitors submit a recording of their best performances and winners are announced the following year.
Baylor conductor-in-residence Stephen Heyde emphasized that humility is important for the orchestra while also striving for excellence.
“Unrestrained competition is never good. We want to be humble about it and do the best we can within the time that we have. We don’t suddenly rehearse for days and weeks on end — we stay with the schedule,” Heyde said.
However, recognition is important for the music program for reasons other than prestige.
“I think [winning the prize] verifies to the students that our system is working. If you have a new system, and that system is producing some wins, that’s reassuring that your hard work is paying off. I think that sends an important message to students that hard work pays off and discipline pays off, but also a balanced approach so that one thing doesn’t become out of perspective to your life,” Heyde said.
For Heyde, education is the most important thing. He said if prize becomes the most important thing, no one would accomplish the purpose for which they came to Baylor: for students to learn how to become excellent on a reasonable schedule. One of the most rewarding things to him about his position is the students who come through.
“It’s the opportunity and great honor that I have to work with students who are intelligent and motivated and kind and disciplined and extremely hardworking who share my passion for the music,” Heyde said. “It’s just a joy. And I have 34 years of working with students just like that. Almost an unceasing flow of wonderful people and to mold them together into a unified performance and to work with them is just the joy of my life.”
Huntsville, Ala. senior Helena Bandy plays violin in the orchestra. For Bandy, it’s an honor to work with a group of talented musicians and to create something powerful and of excellence together.
“People will see that you’ve been part of an orchestra that takes music seriously and takes rehearsal seriously,” Bandy said. “And when people see that, they’ll see that you worked hard and excellently.”
Not only do students receive national recognition and credibility coming out of the university, but the competition also gives feedback from professional judges, which is valuable to the orchestra for improvement.
“What I like to do is fill a CD up [for submission to the competition]. I put in a bunch of things because then we’re gonna get more comments,” Heyde said. “In some ways, it makes it easier to criticize us. If you send in one piece that’s just literally perfect, that’s okay. But what I’m trying to do is get as much feedback on as many styles as we can so we can learn and profit by sharing those comments with the orchestra.”
Heyde said he hopes that students outside of the music school realize the “banquet” of opportunities available on campus at Baylor to help the process of growing as a well-rounded people.
“Tickets are free to most of our concerts. Come over and hear us,” Heyde said. “It’s another opportunity to cross the campus, and I hope that students will avail themselves of all of them. I hope that they go to some of our ensembles or exhibits that the art department has or some of the plays — I hope that they go to athletic events because that’s an important part of college life. I hope that they’ll go and hear lectures outside of their discipline as well as the ones in their discipline.”
The orchestra’s next concert is at 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 27 in Jones auditorium.