Words by Amanda Castro-Crist

It’s no secret that Lubbock, Texas, is a launching pad for just about any kind of art you can think of, and the performing arts are no exception. Home to Texas Tech University’s J.T. & Margaret Talkington College of Visual & Performing Arts (TCVPA), the area is a breeding ground for rock-and-roll, musical theater and every kind of melody in between.

Students in the college’s School of Music and School of Theatre & Dance find the local spotlight is often just a first taste of the kind of continued success they’ll have after graduation. With a low student-to-faculty ratio, world-class facilities and performance spaces, and talented mentors and instructors, the college allows Red Raiders to hone their skills, make connections and jump-start their journey to success, all while earning a degree from a top-notch research institution.

“Our students have access and opportunities to study with our exceptional faculty from their first day on campus,” says TCVPA interim dean Genevieve Durham DeCesaro. “We offer our students a breadth of areas in which to focus, from performance to musicology and commercial music, and we supplement the excellent training provided by our faculty with opportunities to learn from a wide variety of high-profile and internationally recognized guest artists.”

TCVPA students have access not only to on-campus performance spaces, including a classical concert hall, an intimate ensemble space and a large proscenium theater, but also to rehearsal and performance spaces around the city, like Lubbock’s brand-new Buddy Holly Hall of Performing Arts and Sciences, a world-class performing arts center. This means when they graduate, they’re prepared to work on just about any stage or set anywhere in the world, making them increasingly competitive and successful as they begin their professional careers.

And what successes they’ve seen.

Courtesy of David Gaschen

There’s David Gaschen, who has led more than 1,500 performances of “Phantom of the Opera” in Europe and the U.S., and soprano Rebecca Babb-Nelsen, who has sung in multiple productions at the Volksper Wien opera house in Vienna.

Courtesy of Susan Graham

There’s Grammy-Award winning mezzo-soprano Susan Graham, who has performed with the New York Metropolitan Opera, the Sydney Opera House and the Opera National De Paris, and violinist Nicole Cherry, who uses her music as a form of social justice, performing musical outreach and leading community music programs as a member of the award-winning Marian Anderson String Quartet.

Photography by D.C. Anderson

And there’s Jeff Smith, who completed a national tour of “West Side Story” and now stars in “Ode to Passion,” a movie musical currently streaming on Amazon Prime.

For Smith, who arrived at the university as a chemistry major with minimal musical experience, the support and education he received after becoming a voice and theater student has been crucial to his success since graduation.

“I wasn’t fluent in the language of music, whether it was theory or vocal technique or anything like that,” Smith says. “I had a lot of catching up to do. I needed a lot more honing and education to learn how to warm my voice up and energize it, to give it healthy vibrato, an extended range and different styles. The vocal training in the School of Music was huge for me, that immersion into all the new sounds and things my voice wasn’t yet capable of.

“The faculty overall had a very positive attitude and included uplifting, encouraging teachers. They are people who really love to teach. I could tell they loved being around young minds who were looking to be educated, encouraged and inspired, and I was.”

Altogether, each aspect of a musical journey that begins at Texas Tech makes for an unrivaled educational experience.

Photography by Ashley Rodgers

“We go so much further than the studio, stage or classroom,” Durham DeCesaro says. “We connect our students with guest artists who remain professional contacts, we feature our students in cutting-edge performance spaces, and we provide our students with curricula rooted in currency and innovation. The result is that we push our students to not just find but confidently claim their voices so they are already started down their paths to successful performance careers by the time they leave our community.”

It just goes to show that once again, From Here, It’s Possible.TM