Artist Series 2023: Recap and Recording

Music enthusiasts recently gathered for the MBU’s annual Artist Series. This year’s concert featured Daniel Birnschein and Grace Betry along with guest appearances by faculty, students, and alumni.

Students highly praised the evening of entertainment. “This Artist Series provided every person present with a gift – the music performed was excellent,” recounted Jocelyn Metcalf. “The performers put in countless hours of practice, and the show was a wonderful mix of humor and solemnity. I enjoyed every minute!”

A long-time friend of Maranatha, Birnschein taught as an Assistant Professor of Music from 2009-2012. During this time, he taught courses such as orchestration and harmony and restarted their Chorale Choir.

As a sought-after professional musician, Birnschein has performed with several orchestras and is the former principal trumpet of the La Crosse Symphony Orchestra, the Green Bay Symphony Orchestra, and the Champaign-Urbana Symphony. In June 2021, he performed a world premiere of Amy Mills concerto for trumpet and string orchestra “Journey One: Hints of the Middle East” with the La Crosse Symphony Orchestra. Birnschein currently serves as the principal trumpet of the Wisconsin Philharmonic and second trumpet of the Milwaukee Ballet orchestra. In addition to performing, Birnschein teaches trumpet for MBU and Birnschein Musical Services.

Birnschein’s accompanist, Grace Betry, completed an undergraduate degree at Maranatha in Piano Pedagogy and Performance. As a student, she accompanied the Heritage Singers, the Chamber Singers, and numerous Maranatha performances. She recently earned a Master of Arts in Collaborative Piano (Instrumental) from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee while performing as the pianist for the UWM symphony.

The 2023 Artist Series featured the theme “Music Makes the World Go ‘Round.” Concert selections represented enriching music from nations including Argentina, Israel, Germany, Ukraine, Italy, and America.

Along with selections from these various cultures, Birnschein showcased his composition skills by performing one of his own pieces, Sonata for Trumpet and Piano.

Throughout the concert, several musicians joined Birnschein and Betry. Jeremiah Willson, a Maranatha alumnus and Calvary Baptist School music teacher, performed the flute part in Stephenson’s “Croatian Trio.” June Brus, Betry’s former MBU piano professor, played the second piano in the last movement of Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No. 1. Brus recounts, “What a pleasure it was to be able to collaborate with Grace. Her pianistic ability is amazing, but what also impresses me is her spirit of humility and gratitude to the Lord.  I can’t wait to see what the future holds for her.” Melody Steinbart, a Maranatha string professor, played violin in the second movement of Ewazen’s Trio in Eb Major. Near the end, Dr. David Brown performed trombone in Clarke’s Cousins.

Along with faculty members, students appeared on stage with Birnschein. Joel Montgomery joined Birnschein in “El Choclo” by Villoldo. Later, Montgomery collaborated with Birnschein and second student, Joshua Wright, in an amusing rendition of “Bugler’s Holiday.”

The final selection, “Hoe-Down” by Copland, featured nearly every performer throughout the concert along with Dr. David Ledgerwood. After receiving a thunderous standing ovation, Birnschein and Betry returned to give a short encore, “The Flight of the Bumblebee.”

Thanks to the stupendous reputation of these talented musicians, this year’s Artist Series brought in a sizable audience. Along with MBU employees and Watertown locals, the concert was attended by over half of MBU’s student body, a higher-than-average count.

Recent graduate Jenny Sanders reflects, “I was able to take Music Theory with Mr. Birnschein as my teacher, so it is always fun to see your teachers perform. It helps you see them as a musician, rather than just a teacher; it enables you to gain a new appreciation for their expertise. Mr. Birnschein’s performance was definitely not lacking in expertise! His performance demonstrated the thrill of professional playing while also showing the humor that can be found in knowing your instrument well enough that you can play it “wrong.” From the music that was selected, to the precise ensembleship of all the performers, it was an incredibly enjoyable evening.”

Click here to see photos from the concert.

View a recording of the concert below.