Lawrence P. Vincent (BA ’73) and his wife, Jean Prows Vincent (BM ’71), naturally slip into German when they get together with their three grown sons. “It feels like our mother tongue,” says Lawrence, a native of Ogden, Utah, who raised his family in Austria while performing with the Vienna Volks Opera from 1987 to 1996. Now a music professor and the director of opera at BYU, he is passing on a rich heritage to his students.
During winter semester 2009, nine BYU students enrolled in the School of Music’s first Study Abroad program in Vienna. There they took classes in vocal performance, taught by the Vincents, and in fine arts and German literature. “It’s the music capital of the world,” says Lawrence. “They have so many performance venues and music schools that students can not only study music performance but also attend world-class performances.”
Among the renowned singers the students saw were Russian soprano Anna Netrebko and German bass-baritone Thomas Quasthoff. “It gave us a real taste of the level of excellence needed to pursue careers in music,” says Shea M. Owens (’10), the student facilitator for the program.
During the students’ tour of Karlskirche, one of Vienna’s religious icons, they were invited to walk on scaffolding to take a closer look at the nearly 300-year-old murals painted on the church’s walls. Before leaving the building, the students sang “Nearer My God to Thee” for an Austrian professor. “It was a rare experience I will never forget,” says Owens. The students also performed for LDS missionaries, young adult institute classes, local wards, and the residents of a senior care facility.
Lawrence, who was awarded Austrian citizenship in 1994 for his artistic achievements, hopes to return with students in the future. “While the students were able to give service through their talents, the real service was to them,” he says. “Vienna presents a musical environment unlike anything they can experience in America.”