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Performing Arts Profile

For students interested in honoring God through music, there is no better place to train than the Conservatory of Music at Wheaton College. 

Part of what makes the Conser-vatory distinctive is our professors. Every one of them holds a doctoral degree. And every day you’ll find students sitting with them and gaining insight into how to play more fluently and beautifully. The student-professor relationship is the essence of a Wheaton education—it’s through regular interaction with professors that education occurs at its deepestroots. Real growth occurs in lecturehalls and in practice rooms (and we have 40 of them). 

In the Conservatory of Music at Wheaton College, there is a rhythm to our endeavors. Together we create. Through practice sessions we focus and strive to reach higher. And we perform. We perform for audiences of thousands. We perform music for each other. We perform for the simple joy of it. But we do each—and this is crucial—because we’re drawn by our faith. We are men and women from across the United States and around the world who experience Christ’s kingdom on Saturday nights in the auditorium the same way we do on Tuesday afternoons in practice rooms, brought together for a singular reason: to radically follow Christ through music.

Following Christ is a creative work. It requires all of our talent and imagination. You see, if we are called to reflect the image of a creative God, we are called to be creators ourselves. So we hold events like Wheaton Creation to live this out. Combining visual art, spoken word, and music, Wheaton Creation allows the breadth of musicians, painters, playwrights, and poets here to explore the creation story of Genesis and the continuing act of creation in our lives.

It’s work to hone our talents and ensure that our performances reflect the excellence of our Creator. You’ll find McAlister Hall, which houses the Conservatory’s practice rooms, classrooms, and studio and rehearsal space, is an active place. Making music at Wheaton involves purpose and drive. Students at our Conservatory gain top musical training at an internationally recognized music school—training that opens doors to excellent graduate schools, studio or ensemble work, composing, or teaching opportunities.

Professors here—performers themselves who have often won international acclaim—teach the theoretical, historical, and stylistic underpinnings of music. They prepare students infour major areas—performance, composition, teaching, and scholarship—so students will find uncommon success wherever God leads. You’ll learn from professors like Dr. David Gordon, who has composed for concerts around the world and won a Grammy for his work, or Dr. Shawn Okpebholo, who has performed on five continents during his illustrious career.

And over four years, you will spend hours upon hours with these professors—in class, practice, and rehearsals for our nine different ensembles (Chamber Music, Concert Choir, Jazz Ensemble, Men’s Glee Club, Opera Music Theatre, Percussion Ensemble, Symphonic Band, Symphony Orchestra, and Women’s Chorale)—forming bonds that go beyond professorship and into mentorship. With a 7:1 student-faculty ratio, professors know their students—and know how to help them reach the next level of mastery. Don’t be surprised when the whole ensemble goes to the professor’s house for dinner or you grab a meal with one after class.

Through your professors’ guidance, you’ll see the relationship between your music—your practice time, your rehearsal time, your performances—and Christ. You’ll understand, more profoundly than before, how playing your instrument is an act of worship. Beyond this, however, you’ll see how your faith connects to literature and philosophy, math and music. At Wheaton, faith is the foundation upon which learning rests. You’ll be prepared wherever your career leads—because you’re someone who sees causes and relationships behind your study.

Ask those who have gone before—they exemplify this. Graduates like Marty O’Donnell went on to work for film and TV and then created the soundtrack for the bestselling Halo video game. John Nelson spent 10 years as the music director of the Ensemble Orchestral de Paris and has also won a Grammy for his work. Deanna Witkowski climbed to the top of her profession: she’s one of the premier jazz pianists of her generation, has released five albums, and has performed at the Kennedy Center.

These are men and women following Christ, speaking hope and beauty to the world. This is the aim of our community.

Award-winning alumni have studied at McAlister Hall, played in Barrows Auditorium, and enjoyed the acoustics of the 2,400-seat Edman Chapel.

You’ll do this too. Whether in the Kennedy Center or our own 600-seat Pierce Memorial Chapel, students here are intent on sharing Christ and his goodness, his truth, and his beauty.

Wheaton is a musical, creative place where you can’t help but be inspired and grow in your talents, and you’ll have access to state-of-the-art recording and studio technology to help do it. From Wheaton Creation events to our regular Artist Series, from dorm rooms to coffeehouses, you’ll be surrounded by musicians. They won’t all be Conservatory students. Some may be in your ensembles. Some may simply love and appreciate your talent. They’ll all help you hone your talent to better reflect a Creator God.

And with Chicago 25 miles to the east, students take in plays, musicals, operas, symphonies, and shows. It’s a thriving music scene. Students here are able to enjoy it to the fullest—drawing ideas and motivation along the way.

Beyond Chicago, of course, our ensembles tour nationally and internationally. We perform regularly for a Wheaton audience and record with nationally known artists. We also take our gifts around the world, performing at national conventions and for international audiences. Our tours spread the beauty and goodness of God with all who listen, and we’ve performed for audiences in soup kitchens, or collaborated with professional ensembles, or played before dignitaries. This year we’ll have tours in Paris, Korea, Los Angeles, and more.

Above all, however, you will experience a community of grace at Wheaton. You’re accepted as you are—with your own hopes and fears, strengths and weaknesses. We’ve found that in the classroom or cafeteria, this community of grace helps us become more of who God wants us to be. Grace extended from student to student, professor to pupil, allows us to be fully ourselves. It also loves us enough to help us become who we want to be—better followers of Christ and excellent musicians.

We are people who are being transformed. You’ll find the same happens to you on Wheaton’s campus as you enter into a community unlike any other. It’s a community on a mission. A community of grace that enables us to embody high ideals and to go after what is good, what is true, and what is beautiful.