BJU is gearing up for its 43rd annual High School Festival and Preaching Conference.

The conference, which features competitions in music, communication, art, photography, video production and preaching, will be held next week Monday through Thursday.

During the High School Festival and Preaching Conference, Christian school, public school and home school students from ninth to 12th grade come together to compete in both solo and group events.

This year contestants are coming from 23 different states to compete.

Students may choose up to three events to participate in out of the many categories offered.

In total, there are 18 contests in music, 11 in art and four in communication.

In addition to competing, high school students will have the opportunity to attend University classes, workshops, clinics and events around campus including a weekend production of Agatha Christie’s A Murder Is Announced.

Prizes include trophies, plaques and scholarships to BJU summer camps.

For some first-place winners, the prizes include a paid program fee for one or both their semesters of their freshman year if they choose to enroll at BJU. Program fees cover major-specific supplies as well as ticket costs to required Fine Arts events.

But the prizes are not the greatest incentive for students to attend.

Hope Henry, a sophomore music education major, competed in the festival’s music and art categories throughout high school.

She said the greatest things she gained from the High School Festival were the experience of performing and the personal advice from faculty judges.

“You get to see a different side of them, and they’re really caring,” Henry said.

“Not only do they give you really good comments, but they want you to improve, and they give you different master classes to attend.”

Henry also explained that competing gave her valuable insight into the expectations of the music world and helped her to find areas of improvement to stretch her talent.

Students participating in the Preaching Conference also value the experience for much more than the competition.

Stephen Smith, a sophomore church music major, said he appreciated the judges’ comments on his sermon.

He said that while some judges focused on delivery, others paid more attention to its content and meaning.

“The most important thing I learned is that a message should be for an effect, not for fitting three points into 20 minutes,” Smith said.