Richard Kaufman, a Grammy Award-winning conductor, and Lee Holdridge, an Emmy Award-winning Hollywood composer, bring the magic of Hollywood to the concert stage at the first Concert, Opera & Drama Series of the academic year at Bob Jones University on Oct. 7.
A team composed of Darren Lawson, the dean of the School of Fine Arts and Communication, Michael Moore, the chair of the Division of Music in the School of Fine Arts and Communication, Kaufman and Holdridge worked together to plan the concert. These plans include the theme, setlist and coordination of rehearsals which involve student performers and faculty facilitators.
Planning a Concert, Opera, & Drama Series, commonly known as an Artist Series, is an involved process.
“Lawson begins planning the [Artist Series] calendar at least two years in advance,” Moore said. “The theme and title take shape as the musical content of the program comes together. Then comes the work of coordinating personnel, music procurement, copyright compliance, orchestra librarians, staging, audio, video, graphic design and community relations. And that’s all underway well before we pick up our instruments to rehearse the music!”
One thing the men work to bring together is the theme which was decided on at the suggestion of Kaufman who is friends with Lee Holdridge, the composer of the chosen repertoire.
Kaufman proposed using music from Lee Holdridge because Holdridge composed music for concert halls, operas, films and television. This career-spanning repertoire finds its synopsis in the title “Symphonic Hollywood: The Music of Lee Holdridge.”
“[Holdridge] is an award-winning composer with a huge body of work that he’s done,” Lawson said. “I became acquainted with his music when his Hymns Triumphant CDs were released a few decades back. His work is gorgeous …. After spending time with him, I was convinced that featuring him on the program was the right choice.”
“His melodies have a way of wrapping themselves around your heart,” Moore said. “The harmonic surprises transport you to another world when you least expect it. The orchestrations are masterful.”
As the pieces Holdridge composed were created for a variety of projects, they display a wide variety of his work.
“One of the exciting aspects of this concert is the tremendous variety of musical genres and storytelling that the audience will experience,” Kaufman said. “However, one thing that all the music has in common is the emotional journey that Lee brings to all his music.”
BJU’s student orchestra and Chorale will perform this music as they are conducted by Kaufman.
“Our student orchestra will be playing throughout the evening, and our Chorale will be featured doing some selections from his Hymns Triumphant collection,” Lawson said.
Kaufman interacted with BJU students in the past when he conducted an Artist Series event in 2018 for James Thatcher, one of the world’s leading French horn players and first horn for Oscar-winning composer John Williams.
“It’s always an exciting and memorable time whenever I have the opportunity to be on campus and interact with the amazing students,” Kaufman said. “They display a deep desire for learning, a pride in their university, a dedication to making the most of their college experience and they seem to truly care about each other as people. Most of all, the students embrace the fact that their incredible educational opportunity at BJU, studying with the extraordinary faculty, is a gift from God.”
The student musicians use the Artist Series as an opportunity to learn both music and character growth.
“The greatest thing from my perspective is watching our student musicians serving and growing as image-bearers of God through experiences like this,” Moore said.
“They’re putting in some long hours preparing for this concert, and it will certainly benefit them in terms of their own musical education. But there’s a selflessness to this as well. They’re doing this for each other, for their peers in the student body, and for our broader community. Not all musicians get that bigger picture.”
Featuring the student orchestra and Chorale in the Artist Series allows them the opportunity to meet Holdridge and learn from both him and his music.
“The students will experience a very high level of excellence in the composition talents of Lee Holdridge,” said Lawson.
“[Holdridge] has a heart for young musicians, and so having the opportunity to perform his music with the composer himself on campus is an extraordinary opportunity for the talented students at BJU,” said Kaufman.
But playing for Kaufman is also an unforgettable opportunity. A musician from the young age of 7, he decided he wanted to be a conductor by age 11 and went on to win a Grammy in 1993.
“I was given the great opportunity to record a CD with the Nuremberg Symphony in Germany in 1993,” Kaufman said. “Their wonderful performance was appreciated enough that the Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences voted to award us the Grammy for best pop instrumental performance. I was thrilled to be part of that exciting event.”
His experience gives him insight into what makes a concert successful: preparation. And this insight gives Kaufman the hope that students will leave the concert with a greater appreciation of music that fellow students perform.
Kaufman has one overall goal for the concert. “[My purpose is] to glorify God in the opportunity He has given the student musicians and me to present the inspired music of a superb composer and human being, Lee Holdridge,” Kaufman said.