Many musicians dream of performing one day at Carnegie Hall, the prestigious performance venue in New York City. This semester, the Regent University Choir has the opportunity to showcase its talents on the same stage as Tchaikovsky and the Beatles.
Last year, Nancy Klein, a professor and chair at Old Dominion University’s (ODU) Diehn School of Music, recognized the Regent choir’s talent. She has invited the team to take part in a performance at Carnegie Hall on March 17, 2024, with ODU’s choir and the Symphonicity Chorus (The Symphony Orchestra of Virginia Beach).
Andrew Carnegie, an American industrialist who pursued philanthropy, founded the illustrious Carnegie Hall in 1891. Over the years, the hall has housed musicians from numerous genres, including classical music, rock ‘n’ roll, jazz, folk, pop, and others. Music is only one of many performances that audience members can experience at Carnegie Hall. They can watch their favorite comedians and attend galas, benefits, and similar events. Today’s performers at Carnegie Hall can say they have walked the stage with 132 years’ worth of musicians and performers.
Joan Pi, the director of choral activities at Regent University, said, “I was just absolutely thrilled for the opportunity–for our students, for our school–because Regent didn’t have a music program until recently, so it’s really our first time ever to debut outside of Regent University.”
The choir will perform “Gloria” by Francis Poulenc and “Lux Aeterna” by Morten Lauridsen. Everyone at Regent University is welcome to join the Carnegie Trip Concert Choir if they have the time, money, and dedication. Currently, the team is composed of a collection of approximately 29 Regent performers, students from the Chapel Choir and Chamber Choir, in addition to faculty and staff members. This trip is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the performers to advance their musical skills to the next level.
James Wheeler, a Regent University law librarian and choir member, stated, “…this is more than just a fun trip. It’s more than just a performance. It’s going to be an act of worship.”
The prestige of this hall increases the credibility of the musicians who perform there. Therefore, performing at Carnegie Hall helps Regent University spread the word about its young music program, which started 2 1/2 years ago. Pi hopes that the choir’s performance will showcase the value of Regent University and encourage others to join the music program.
The Choir’s Preparation
While Pi works to ensure this trip is successful, the students follow her directions to prepare for the concert. Since the beginning of the fall 2023 semester, they have met with Pi every Tuesday night and practiced for 1 1/2 hours to hone their sound.
Last semester, the choir devoted itself to perfecting “Lux Aeterna.” On Dec. 2, at Regent University’s Annual Christmas Choral Concert, the Carnegie Hall Trip Choir showed a local audience the team’s effort in honing this piece, serving as a practice run before the trip. Now that the choir has overcome “Lux Aeterna,” the team is ready to move on.
Pi shared that when the students return for the spring semester in January, they will focus on refining their performance of “Gloria,” spending over two months perfecting their performance.
This song is more challenging than previous performances. However, these students have immense dedication. For instance, they have devoted themselves to learning Latin text to ensure they can satisfactorily sing the lyrics of “Lux Aeterna” and “Gloria.”
Pi shared that the students have undergone rapid improvement because, “When there is a goal, it’s so much easier for us to put our mind to it.”
On top of the practicing, Pi and the choir have been working tirelessly to fundraise for the trip to lighten the financial burden and ensure those involved receive the necessary help to attend. Their efforts include a partnership with a local frozen yogurt shop for a Spirit Night fundraiser, donation boxes at the choir’s concerts, and concession stands at Regent Royal’s sports games. Along with other donations, they raised over $17,000 towards the trip.
Additionally, the choir held two special events, the Christmas caroling event and the Karaoke Night fundraiser, at the Regent University Library. Through these events, the students shared their talents with the community and inspired individuals to donate and tell others about the talented group.
Michael Lang, an attendee of the Karaoke Night fundraiser, stated, “From what I’ve seen it’s a talented group of young people, and to get word out there of the program here, especially going up to New York…give them the exposure they need and the experience…to further their careers in music.”
Pi and the students sang Christmas carols together at the Christmas caroling event, creating a rich and bright sound. The Karaoke Night fundraiser was a fun night with many musical numbers from choir members and other attendees. Faculty from different departments at Regent University, such as Esther Gillie, the dean of the university library, and Hector Cruz, the academic service manager of the School of Communication and Arts, helped make these events successful and spread awareness of the choir’s goal.
Each event helps the choir reach its goal of raising $2,000 per participant. The students are responsible for paying for their portion of the trip, but Pi hopes to raise enough money so they do not exceed their means.
Joan Pi’s Direction and Dedication
Through Pi’s direction and dedication, she trains students to become musicians who use hard work to glorify God through their talents. Pi joined Regent University’s faculty at the start of the music program, and her time here has been fruitful. Her responsibilities include managing the university’s music program, pushing the choir to improve, teaching various music courses, and heading the trip to Carnegie Hall.
Trudy Mucha, a student in the Regent University Choir, said, “She [Pi] is such a sweet woman… on fire for the Holy Spirit and God. It’s really apparent where her passion is– in music and teaching us.”
Before coming to Regent University, Pi attended McGill University, Yale University, and Stony Brook University, providing her with a strong foundation in music instruction and choral conducting. After her education, Pi taught music for over seven years at middle schools, high schools, and colleges in Texas. Once she and her husband started a family, Pi took a break from teaching. She then worked 10 years as a music director at Three Chopt Presbyterian Church in Richmond, VA.
While working at the church, she started teaching music again as an adjunct professor at a community college. The more she taught, the more she realized how much she missed teaching and interacting with students to help them achieve their dreams. Her renewed inspiration led her to pray seriously about finding a full-time teaching position. Then, God revealed Regent University.
Pi said, “The very first one that came up on my list [of potential jobs] was Regent… The good thing about that is, it’s a marrying of my teaching and ministry together.”
Pi’s ministry work and experience as a teacher have prepared her to educate students at Regent University about the importance of integrating their faith into their musical abilities.
Pi stated, “…they now have found another way of worshiping God through their voices, through the gift that God has given to them…”
The Future of the Regent University Choir
Once the choir arrives in New York on March 14, 2024, the main objective is to practice and grasp the ins and outs of performing with a larger group. The choir is learning to work with students from other colleges and a different conductor, Nancy Klein. These elements push the students to adapt their musical talents to new surroundings.
Mucha stated, “Well, it’s certainly a really good experience… learning what it’s like in a mostly professional setting while still being a part of the safety net of a school group.”
Pi shared that once in New York, the choir members will start practicing the same day they arrive and then rehearse for the next two days. On the Sunday morning of the concert, they will have their final practice and perform that afternoon.
However, the choir’s work does not stop there. The team will perform “Gloria” again with a new group the week after Carnegie Hall. The choir will join Symphonicity and the ODU Choir on March 24, 2024, at the Sandler Center for the Performing Arts in Virginia Beach, under the direction of Symphonicity’s conductor, Daniel W. Boothe.
The upcoming performances at Carnegie Hall and the Sandler Center will help the choir to improve while emphasizing the growth and success of Regent University’s music program.
Emily Hogan, a music major and choir member at Regent University, believes the Carnegie Hall concert will boost the Regent University music program’s credibility by showing that the department is continually advancing.
While the program is young, this trip affirms its status and encourages Pi and the students to continue working hard. Additionally, the program will have its first graduating class this upcoming semester. The choir will lose some valued members with the first graduating class, but the world will gain dedicated Christian leaders.
Pi trusts that God will keep providing students with dedication and love for music. She mentioned that students are constantly inquiring about joining the choir. For the next semester, ten new members will join the choir. While the choir and music program are gaining a name for Regent University’s standing in the music community, the student’s and faculty’s primary focus is to praise God through it.
Pi stated, “…I love making music together with the many voices that God has given together into one voice. And there’s the color, the specific color, that God is creating for each session. When the members change, the color of the voice changes, too, in the choir. It’s always challenging, yet always beautiful, so I am so eager to find out what God has for us for years to come.”
Individuals still have the opportunity to donate to support the Carnegie Trip. Through every donation and God’s help, the choir is closer to funding the trip entirely. One can donate by visiting the Carnegie Hall Choir Trip page on the Regent Alumni site and selecting Give Now. In addition, individuals can pray that the choir has a safe trip with inspirational experiences.