News Story

Aussie Makes his Music Mark in USA

By Christopher Cooper

Dr. Luke Howard from the BYU School of Music has been sharing his love of both music and Australia in the USA for the past 20 years. He teaches music history at BYU, he is the only Australian singing in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and he has since been invited to help with some of the script writing and production of the famous Choir's work.

Luke was born and raised in Sydney, but his mission call to the Utah Salt Lake City North Mission ('84-85) helped establish what was to become an enduring relationship with this country and state.

"It was on my mission that I first heard The Mormon Tabernacle Choir live, and I will never forget that moment. While I had heard them before in Sydney when General Conferences were relayed by telephone line to our chapel in Parramatta, it was incomparable to hearing them live in the Tabernacle."

"After my mission, I returned to Sydney and enrolled as a student at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music where I got my Bachelor of Music Education degree in 1991. While completing that degree, I also played piano and organ for a Sydney Temple Choir (made up of Temple missionaries) that was conducted by Robert Manookin, a retired BYU music professor and an incredible musician and composer" said Luke.

Upon seeing Luke's great talent and interest in music, Brother Manookin virtually insisted that Luke go to BYU for a Master's degree, and after several calls, Luke soon found himself again flying back to Utah, this time to complete a Master of Arts degree in Music History at BYU.

From there Luke went on to the University of Michigan for his Ph.D. in Music History ('97). His first job as music faculty was at Minnesota State University Moorhead, and from there he moved to Kansas City to teach at the Conservatory of Music at the University of Missouri Kansas City. It was while in Kansas City that Luke met his wife, in addition to being offered a Music History Professor position back at BYU, which again allowed him to return to Utah where he started teaching in the School of Music at BYU in September 2002."

It wasn't until 2006 that Luke auditioned for a position with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir – the same choir he first fell in love with on his mission - and he was accepted.

"In early 2009, the regular script writer for the Choir's weekly broadcast, "Music and the Spoken Word," retired--he had been doing it for about 25 years--and the producers needed someone with good writing skills, a background in music history, and a thorough familiarity with the Choir and
its mission. I was lucky enough to have all those required skills, and they chose me."

The Choir has since been able to use Luke's talents, in addition to singing, by having him assist with writing program notes and the CD booklets for every Choir recording since 2007. Luke has been able to expand this writing skill by writing for other music CDs and writing program notes for the Philadelphia Orchestra (one of the world's leading orchestras) for almost a decade.

Luke says that at times he is singled out for his spectacular un-American pronunciation. "Mack Wilberg is always trying to get the Choir members to soften their harsh American "r" sounds, especially in a word like "Lord" (which we sing a lot!), and his goal is to get us all to sing it as the English or Australians do. In those instances, I am sometimes held up as the pronunciation model, which is a novelty for me."

"Music has always been a huge part of my life. I do love the Choir, and I love being Australian. Even after more than twenty years living in this country, I have kept my passport, my citizenship, and especially my accent. Australia is my home, music has been my journey, and Utah has been the place to help many of my music dreams come true."

Picture courtesy of Luke Howard and used with permission


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