SEVENTEEN BLUEFIELD COLLEGE MUSIC ALUMNI RETURNED TO CAMPUS TO JOIN CURRENT BC MUSIC STUDENTS IN THE TRADITIONAL MUSIC ALUMNI REUNION CONCERT, FEBRUARY 27.
The former music students, their families, other alumni, current students, faculty, staff and friends all gathered on the BC campus for the two-day winter event, which featured not only reunions and reminiscing, but also a Music Alumni Concert directed by former BC music student and professor Debbie Burton.
The two-day alumni gathering included a reunion reception, a breakfast, a luncheon, a formal dinner, campus tours, and lots of reminiscing during which time the former music students spoke of how much the campus had changed since their days as students, but how much the place “still felt like home.”
“It was a real blessing, not to mention a great time, to be back on campus, singing with a group that I came to love as a student at Bluefield College,” said alumnus David Calfee (’93), who sang as a student with Bluefield Singers, Variations and The Revelators, an unofficial BC quartet. “To reconnect with old friends and to make a few new ones were only two of the reasons that I enjoyed the two days we spent together. It was also great to see the paths that we had all taken and to see where God had placed each one of us in life.”
The weekend also encompassed four rehearsal sessions for the former music students in preparation for the Music Alumni Concert to culminate the weekend’s activities. Alumna Kimbra Nash Stenson (’84), who traveled all the way from McDonough, Georgia, to reunite with former classmates, said the event was “like coming home.” She said she enjoyed gathering with “dear friends” with whom she shared a common passion and meeting new people with whom she shared a love of music.
“Even though I had not been to Bluefield for about 25 years, the campus still had that welcoming atmosphere,” said Stenson, who sang in the choir and for BC Theatre musicals while a student. “It’s good to see the music program growing and reaching more students. Even though I did travel the farthest, involving two airplanes and a rental car, I was glad I made the effort. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.”
The Music Alumni Concert in Harman Chapel featured classic choral anthems and alumni favorites, including “Be Thou My Vision,” “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,” “With a Voice of Singing,” and the BC alma mater. In addition, instrumental alumni performed “Winter on Emerald Bay,” the new Bluefield College fight song “East River March,” and “Amazing Grace” from a special arrangement by BC alumnus Joe Whitt. Current Bluefield College music students joined alumni for the concert performance.
“This was an exciting weekend for the college and for the alumni who attended,” said Josh Grubb, director of alumni relations and a 2007 BC grad, who took part in the celebration with his wife, alumna Laura Whiteed Grubb (’08). “It marked the first year we invited both choral alumni and band alumni to the reunion.”
Directing this year’s Alumni Choir was 1983 alumna Debbie Burton, a national figure in the world of music education who not only studied music and sang in the choir at Bluefield College, but also taught in the BC Department of Music in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In fact, before departing BC, Burton earned the school’s Distinguished Faculty Award. After Bluefield, she taught choral music at E.C. Glass High School and later directed music at Peakland Baptist Church. Today, she is the director of fine and performing arts at the Virginia Episcopal School, a position she has held for the past 17 years.
“I was always in the BC choir and a participant in musical theatre, but I wasn’t a music major, so it had never occurred to me to come to a music reunion,” said Rebecca Bentley Hall (’86). “But, when I heard that Debbie Burton was going to be the director for the event, I wanted in. Debbie was my suite mate my freshman year at Bluefield. She was a wonderful Godly example of grace and love, and her voice was like an angel. We were in several musicals together, and she was an incredible mentor to me.”
Joining Calfee, Stenson, the Grubbs, Burton and Hall among the 21 total BC grads who attended the Music Alumni Reunion were Donna Berry Barnum (‘86), Billy Burton (’92), Cameron Botts Burton (’95), Elizabeth Decker (’15), Carrie Laughlin Greene (’93), Adam Lowe (‘10), Adam McAllister (’08), Joe Newton (’63), Alex Payne (’95), Jennifer Rutledge Payne (’95), Tracy Shelton (‘94), Heather Musick Shockley (’97), Jonathan Shockley (’96), Amy Bray Short (‘94), and Carla Barr Thomas (‘98).
“The weekend was such a blessing,” said Greene. “It was so good to be ‘home’ again. BC will always be home to me. The best part was being with friends again and having that ‘we’ve never been apart’ feeling. Singing with Debbie directing brought back the best years of my life and renewed my love of singing with a choir again.”