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All TCU. All the time.

TCU 360

TCU alumni connect with each other at Guy Fieri’s Dive & Taco Joint in downtown Kansas City, Missouri. on Friday Oct. 7, 2022. (Photo courtesy of Tristen Smith)
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The reputation of TCU’s Van Cliburn Concert Hall brings in high-caliber military ensembles

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The Van Cliburn Concert Hall at TCU (Photo courtesy of Kyle Cornelison)

The Van Cliburn Concert Hall at TCU hosted its first performance, a concert featuring the TCU Frog Corps Ensemble, the university’s male vocal ensemble, in spring 2022. Now, the hall plays host to international festivals and, most recently, two high-caliber military ensembles.

On March 18, the School of Music welcomed the Navy Band Sea Chanters, the official chorus of the United States Navy. Then, two days later, the Army Intrepid Winds, a wind quintet from “Fort Sam’s Own” 323d Army Band, also performed at TCU.

Because military groups are so popular, performance venues usually need to fill out a form to request the group’s presence. TCU did not need to do this.

“Both groups had already had engagement in the area, and they were looking to flesh out their performances while they were in town,” Sean Atkinson, the director of the TCU School of Music, said. “I think possibly it’s the reputation of the School of Music, it’s the reputation of the concert hall, but they reached out to us to ask if we’d be interested in hosting them while they were in town.”

For the Navy Band Sea Chanters, the connection to TCU goes one step further. Musician First Class Ryan C. Connelly, a tenor in the group, was a freelance professional opera singer before enlisting. During that time, Connelly spent time at a summer festival alongside James D. Rodriguez, who is now a professor and the Division Chair of Voice at TCU.

Connelly reached out to Rodriguez first to see if TCU would host the Sea Chanters.

“I immediately reached out to our director, Dr. Atkinson, who gave the green light,” Rodriguez said. “We knew we wanted this group to experience TCU and the beautiful acoustics of the Van Cliburn Concert Hall. It’s also a great honor for TCU to host such a prestigious and respected ensemble.”

The Van Cliburn Concert Hall seats more than 700 audience members. Nearly two-thirds of those chairs were full of students and community members for the Sea Chanters performance.

“We thoroughly enjoyed performing in the Van Cliburn Concert Hall, the acoustics in the space were incredible,” Connelly said. “It’s always a joy to perform at universities when we are traveling, because they so often have state of the art accommodations that lend themselves to a high level of musicality.”

“Since most of our performers have degrees in music, we look forward to being able to share our work with other young up-and-coming musicians,” he added.

The Navy Sea Chanters perform at the Van Cliburn Concert Hall at TCU on Mar. 18, 2024. (Lance Sanders/Staff Photographer)

Atkinson explained that the concert hall has a dual purpose. Primarily, it serves the TCU students.

“Our students are some of the best in the country and we’ve not had a performance venue that matched that level, so that was goal one,” Atkinson said.

The second goal was to create a performance venue that would attract high-caliber musicians across the nation and internationally as an “outward facing project” for the community, Atkinson said.

The Van Cliburn Concert Hall hosts PianoTexas every summer and the Cliburn Competition every four years, both internationally recognized competitions that began at TCU.

The Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, the Fort Worth Opera, and the Chamber Music Society of Fort Worth have also used the space.

Looking forward, Atkinson said the Van Cliburn Concert Hall will host the International Trombone Festival this May and both the Collegiate Band Directors National Association National Conference and the National Trumpet Competition in 2025.

“The word is out that we’ve got this fantastic space and it is acoustically one of the best spaces I’ve ever been in,” Atkinson said. “It’s a game changer for what we do for our students and for the North Texas artistic community.”

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