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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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By Addison Thummel, Staff Writer
Published May 11, 2024
TCU graduates can stay connected with the Horned Frog community with alumni chapters across the nation.

TCU Concert Chorale prepares to tell the story of Matthew Shepard

Promotional graphic for concert. (TCU School of Music)
Audio clip of TCU Concert Chorale singing “Ordinary Boy” composed by Craig Hella Johnson. Image provided by Kai Diamond. Audio provided by Marla Ringel.

On April 27, the TCU Concert Chorale will take the stage to recount an event that unfolded in the fall of 1998. Yet, Matthew Shepard’s story is more relevant now, 25 years later, than ever before.

“Considering Matthew Shepard” is the story of a 21-year-old gay college student who was beaten, tied to a fence and left for dead in Laramie, Wyoming.

Although he was eventually found by emergency services, Shepard died in the hospital on Oct. 12, 1998, five days after the attack. Police concluded that Shepard was the victim of a hate crime and both perpetrators were sentenced to life in prison.

Before being turned into a musical score, Shepard’s story was adapted as a play, “The Laramie Project.” The show was met with backlash recently in Keller, Texas, when Timber Creek High School was forbidden from performing it by the school board.

Despite recent controversy, TCU Interim Chorale Director Marla Ringel said “Considering Matthew Shepard” is a moving piece for audience members and performers alike.

“I’ve known this work since its premiere,” Ringel said. “When choosing concert material, I was looking for a larger work. I wanted something with a voice, something with a purpose bigger than a stand-alone concert. Every time I visited ‘Considering Matthew Shepard,’ I was moved in a different way, and then I would go home and I would still think about the work.”

She said she chose this piece so the ensemble would have the opportunity to perform a work with more depth than the traditional concert score.

“Considering Matthew Shepard” is a 33-movement choral work. The TCU Concert Chorale will perform an abridged version consisting of 21 of the movements.

Shepard’s story spreads awareness about the prevalence of violent crimes against LGBTQ+ individuals. Members of the LGBTQ+ community over the age of 16 are four times more likely to experience violent victimization than non-LGBTQ+ people, according to the UCLA Williams Institute.

For senior music education major Kayden Burns, “Considering Matthew Shepard” bears a special significance.

“I have been looking forward to this concert for the whole semester,” Burns said. “As an openly queer person, I need people to recognize that these atrocious events happen more frequently than we’d like to admit. 1998 wasn’t that long ago, and we’re still seeing anti-queer legislation being passed today.”

Burns went on to say that sharing stories like Shepard’s spread awareness of struggles faced by the LGBTQ+ community. Educating the public on the violence of the past is crucial to moving toward a brighter future.

But the story’s significance expands beyond the LGBTQ+ community, according to Owen Harvey, a sophomore vocal performance major.

“There is a misconception that this story impacts only LGBTQ+ people,” Harvey said. “Not at all. It talks about the hate in our hearts. It talks about innocence, and the fact that Matt was an ordinary guy.”

According to Dory McDonald, a sophomore music major, the piece is a powerful reminder that what happened to Shepard could happen to anyone.

“Matthew Shepard’s story will never fail to give me chills,” McDonald wrote in an email. “He was our age when he died. To me, his story is a haunting reminder of the hatred that can rule people’s lives. Bringing this story to a TCU stage speaks to efforts to counter the prejudice and division widespread in this area of the country, especially in Texas.”

The TCU Concert Chorale will perform “Considering Matthew Shepard” on April 27 at 7 p.m. at the Van Cliburn Concert Hall. Tickets are free for TCU students.

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