FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS) – The School of Church Music at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary provided an enjoyable evening of music at their 11th annual Gala, Feb. 27.

“We’ve come to lift up the Lord,” Leo Day, dean of the School of Church Music, said in his introduction, reading Bible passages of praise and songs. “Let everything that has breath tonight, praise the Lord.”

About 1,200 members of the community and the Southwestern family attended the event.

“It was a beautiful, collective, unified School of Music function that everybody knew why they were there,” Day said. “And that was to worship God and not to be seen.”

Day felt that God did bless and magnify the Gala even as the performers and members of the audience worshiped.

“I think it went very well,” Day said. “I don’t take it for granted when God walks into the room.”

While in past years, the Gala has featured special guest artists such as Steve Green, this year the music school displayed its own students and faculty in the Southwestern Singers, Chamber Chorale, Chapel Choir, Mansemble, Jazz Combo, and other performers, alongside the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra.

College and graduate students and faculty performed a wide variety of styles, including jazz pieces, hymns sung in traditional and more contemporary ways, opera, spirituals, as well as songs sung in different languages.

“In the past the Gala was more classically geared, and that was the goal,” Day said. “My vision is a more inclusive one for all of the different styles we are, all of the different people we are, all of the different sounds we are. … Why not use all of who we are?”

After the program, Day received an email from a faculty member of some 40 years who wrote that he believed that the Gala represented the true self of the school more than it ever had before.

Former music minister and Southwestern alumnus Phil Jones attended the concert with fellow members of a local church.

“I was encouraged by the giftedness of the young performers,” Jones said. “Their skills coupled with their Christian foundation will make a difference for Christ in the years ahead.”

This was also Jones’ first time to see and hear Day, who was taking part in the Gala for the first time since joining Southwestern in 2013.

“His musical artistry was wonderful, and his obvious love for the Lord will help church musicians understand the depth of their role in ministry,” Jones said.

President Paige Patterson pointed out the blessing the music school is at Southwestern.

“When every other seminary music school in the country has gone out of business, God is blessing ours,” Patterson said.

Day says the endurance of the program is largely because of the leadership that has a passion for it.

Near the end of the program, Day introduced the old spiritual song, “Calvary,” saying the song and the entire program was “all about the cross.”

The concert ended with a non-traditional, soulful version of the “Hallelujah” chorus from Handel’s Messiah that had the audience on their feet and clapping.

Day, David Thye, John Simons, and Kurt Sprenger each conducted songs through the evening. Vocal soloists included David Robinson, Angela Cofer, Chan Yang Lim, John Green, Leo Day, Genesis Miranda, and Reynier Carballosa. The evening also featured violin and organ pieces.