University students are displaying their talents and skills in the final weeks of the semester through the annual Commencement Contests.

The competitions, held by the School of Fine Arts and Communication, start earlier in the spring semester. The competition winners are announced at the end of each academic year.

Students in the competitions create artwork and perform musical pieces that are judged by members of the university faculty and staff.

Dr. Ed Dunbar, chair of the Division of Music, said the annual music contests give students the opportunity to practice learning music without the aid of a faculty member.

Dunbar said preparing pieces independently helps music students “hone their skills” in various areas like musicianship, memory and collaboration with an accompanist.

Students work alone preparing for their performance in the preliminary competition without any oversight.

“Three finalists and an alternate for each contest are announced after preliminary competition,” Dunbar said. “They then begin working with faculty coaches for the finals of each competition.”

Dunbar said the finalists and alternates for the music competitions were announced in early March.

The final contests will be held Monday, April 24 to Tuesday, April 25. 

The men’s and women’s voice, woodwinds and bowed strings competitions will be held Monday in the War Memorial Chapel. The composition, brass and piano competitions will be held Tuesday in Stratton Hall.

 Dunbar said students from any program of study are permitted to compete in the contests each year. Some music students compete as a requirement of their major or music program.

  The winners of the music Commencement Contests will receive medallions during the commencement awards ceremony.

Emma Whitehouse, a sophomore music education student, is a finalist in the piano competition.

Whitehouse said making the finals is an exciting opportunity that has pushed her to stretch her abilities and give back to God the talents she has received.

“I am thankful for our giving God who receives all the glory for music and abilities,” Whitehouse said.  “And I am thankful for this chance I have to once again challenge my own potential.”

Chris Barnhart, head of the department of design, said participation in art and design Commencement Contests is required of all art and design majors, but participation is also open to students from all academic programs.

Barnhart said arts and design students may enter a piece into any of the competition categories.

The five categories of art and design contests are graphic design, interior design, photography, studio art, and apparel, textiles and design.

Barnhart said participating students signed up for the contest during the fall semester. The early signup allows the participants several months to create a design before the deadline in March.

An exhibition of the work from the contests was first opened to the public on Monday, April 14, in the Sargent Art Building. The exhibition will remain on display until Friday, May 5. 

Barnhart said winners in each category will be awarded a medallion during the commencement awards ceremony in addition to a $100 cash prize, a $100 gift card to a local art and design store. Additionally, a press release about the winning piece will be distributed by the university’s public relations office.

Barnhart said beyond the material winnings, participating will also benefit the careers of each participant.

“It’s something they can add to their resume,” Barnhart said. “It helps students influence their careers in ways they could not achieve through class work alone. It brings them recognition.”

Barnhart said the contests also add value to the portfolios of art and design majors since they can be creative and compete against other students.

Art and design students receive no help from their faculty during the competition.

Bethany Pritchard, a junior graphic design student, advanced to the finals in photography with a photograph she took of an abandoned theater building in her hometown of Laurens.

“In the photo it seems to have a mirror effect as though the photo is the same on both sides if you split the photo in half,” Pritchard said. “I found this arrangement and position of the building very aesthetically pleasing in its repetitiveness looking through the camera lens.

Pritchard said she was grateful her photo made the finals of the competition and has been placed on display.