Draper Philharmonic & Choral Society thrives under Sherri Jensen’s leadershipAug 10, 2023 11:40AM ● By Katherine Weinstein
Draper Philharmonic & Choral Society began their 10-day European tour in Paris last June. (Photo courtesy of Draper Philharmonic & Choral Society)
Draper Philharmonic & Choral Society founder and director, Sherri Jensen, knows that dreams can come true. Under her leadership, the nonprofit has grown from a small group of musicians and singers to a thriving community orchestra and choir in less than 10 years. Last June, Draper Philharmonic & Choral Society completed a 10-day European tour, performing in Paris, Vienna, Bratislava and Prague.
“It was so amazing,” Jensen said. “It was as successful as I could imagine. People in the audience were on their feet clapping and calling out ‘Bravo!’”
For the European tour, Draper Philharmonic & Choral Society presented the two sacred musical pieces that they have become locally renowned for, “King of Kings” by Draper composers Tyler Teerlink and Jake Lives and “Lamb of God” by Rob Gardner. Director of Marketing and board member, Lisa Nievaard, described the program as a “musical panorama of the life of Jesus Christ.”
The decision to perform these pieces reflects Draper Philharmonic & Choral Society’s mission to bring more light and hope to the world through music that uplifts and fills the soul. “We want to bring hearts together and build a feeling of being connected,” Nievaard said.
Jensen explained that each European performance concluded with the song, “God Be With You ‘Til We Meet Again” sung in the native language of the audience in each city. “I worked with native speakers to translate the lyrics into French, German, Slovak and Czech,” Jensen said. “I felt inspired.” She orchestrated the piece herself and the Choral Society memorized the words phonetically.
The audience response to the song was “an overwhelming feeling,” Jensen added. “People would sing along, cry. It was very meaningful.”
Technical Director Keith Lutz spoke of how the performances resonated with audiences in Europe. “We sold out in Prague,” he said. The experience was incredible because no one was familiar with Draper Philharmonic & Choral Society there. However, news of the concert spread quickly after an enthusiastic audience response in Bratislava, Slovakia. “A number of people drove for hours to Prague to see the show again and brought others to see it the very next day,” Lutz said.
To have such success in the capitals of European classical music is a momentous step for a community orchestra and choral group that began just over seven years ago. In fact, the impetus behind Draper Philharmonic & Choral Society’s founding was in part because of Jensen’s dream of seeing “Lamb of God” performed in a beautiful, historic theater. “I had this huge vision,” she said. In January 2017, Jensen sent out over 250 emails to everyone she knew looking for musicians and singers to learn and perform the piece. Fourteen singers and seven instrumentalists attended the first rehearsal.
“When I walked in the room for that first choir practice, I knew that if I held a good rehearsal, they would come back and bring more people,” Jensen said. “The next week we doubled the choir and just then I knew. It’s been so incredible. It’s almost unbelievable as I look back over the years.”
Today Draper Philharmonic & Choral Society is comprised of 80 talented and committed individuals.
“Sherri has such a passion for what we’re producing and the message we’re sharing,” Lutz said of Jensen. “Everything she says and does expresses the joy and love she has for this work. It inspires people. People give freely of their time.”
“I have so much respect for Sherri for creating a space where musicians and singers can come together as a group and feel uplifted and blessed for being there,” Nievaard said.
Lutz described Jensen’s leadership style. “Everyone is equally important,” he said. “It provides a level of respect and trust in one another. Because we operate that way, we were successful in Europe. Everyone knew their role and pulled their weight.”
Music has been a huge part of Jensen’s life since she was a little girl studying piano with her mom in Idaho Falls. In high school, she accompanied choral groups on the piano thanks to her music teacher’s encouragement. She attended BYU where she initially planned to study computer science. “But being away from music was torturous,” Jensen said. She passed a music theory exam and audition to gain acceptance into the School of Music and graduated with a Bachelor of Music in Piano Pedagogy and Performance.
Jensen taught each of her eight children to play instruments and formed a professional family musical group, Sizzling Strings, with her husband. In 2010, the family moved from Springville to Draper. Jensen began working to establish the Vezzoso School of Music in Draper in 2016. She is passionate about teaching music. “I’ve learned over the years how to teach children and adults,” she said. “I love it.”
Since its inception, Draper Philharmonic & Choral Society has presented approximately four concerts annually in venues ranging from Abravanel Hall to the Corner Canyon High School auditorium. The pandemic caused the cancellation of some performances, but the organization survived. Mounting the European tour was a particular challenge to coordinate and fund. “This was our mission tour,” Jensen said. “We believed, we sacrificed. People scraped together the money to make the trip.” Even so, she added that everyone is eager to go again.
Jensen is seeking funding sources, such as a sponsorship, that would make another tour possible. Like many others in the community, she is also hoping for an arts center to be built in Draper that would serve as a permanent performance space.
Draper Philharmonic & Choral Society’s next concert will be an evening of Broadway show tunes to be presented at Corner Canyon High School on Oct. 13 and 14. New musicians and singers are always welcome to join. Auditions for Draper Philharmonic & Choral Society will be held Aug. 12. Soloists for the Broadway concert may also audition on that day. For more information and to sign up for an audition time slot, visit draperphilharmonic.org. λ