BVU concert choir earns finalist nod in American Prize competition

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

The Buena Vista University Concert Choir has been named a finalist in the prestigious American Prize national nonprofit competition in the performing arts, the only Iowa choir to earn the acclaim this year.

“It’s an extreme honor for us,” says Dr. Merrin Guice, BVU’s director of vocal studies. “With this advancement to the position of finalist, we are joining some very big-time ensembles.”

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

Six choirs that joined BVU in the round of semifinalists, which was announced in February, represented universities or colleges that feature schools of music. Guice smiles and says the BVU choir boasts of students involved in a host of majors, ranging from computer science to business to education, and more.

“I would estimate that 10 percent of our choir are 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 perform.”

The choir spent spring break this year performing in Nashville, Tenn., and New Orleans, La. The choir’s final performance takes place on Saturday during the annual BVU Baccalaureate in Schaller Memorial Chapel.

Even as the academic year concludes, Guice and her students will keep an eye on the American Prize, whose judges now work to determine first- through third-place awards as well as those earning honorable mention. The top three choirs earn monetary awards.

“Students are incredibly excited as they know how big this can be,” she says.

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.