BYU Students Take Their Artistic, Athletic Talents on the Road

Contributed By Jason Swensen, Church News staff writer

  • 1 June 2016

BYU Young Ambassadors and local YSAs from Bulawayo, Zibabwe, with a Mormon Helping Hands project of singing at a care center.  Photo courtesy of LeePhotography.

Article Highlights

  • Seven performing groups and five sports teams from BYU share their talents all over the world.
  • The performers and athletes have the opportunity to introduce many to the Church.

A sign at the entrance of Brigham Young University carries a familiar slogan: “The World Is Our Campus.”

It’s not a metaphor. The influence and reach of the Church-owned college stretches across the globe. BYU’s performing arts groups and athletic teams are responsible for much of that broad footprint. Every year students take their artistic and athletic talents on the road—representing the university (and, by extension, the Church) in front of myriad nations and cultures.

“It’s a wonderful educational experience,” said Rex L. Barrington, the director of BYU’s Performing Arts Management. The organization manages the international tours that largely define popular performing groups at BYU such as the Ballroom Dance Company, Living Legends, and the Young Ambassadors.

Meanwhile, BYU Cougars sports teams are no strangers to customs lines and trans-oceanic flights as they travel to distant climes to compete against athletes from all over the world.

“I learned there are so many great people in the world,” said volleyball player Danelle Parady following her team’s China tour.

For many, watching a visiting BYU group perform or compete is their introduction to the university and the Church. The school has made many friends from a variety of cultures and regions through the international and national trips.

It’s a busy tour season for many BYU student/performer/athletes. To wit:

• The Living Legends dance group that celebrates the cultural heritage of North and South America and the Pacific recently concluded a tour of New Zealand, Tonga, and Samoa.

• The well-known song and dance team Young Ambassadors toured South Africa and Zimbabwe, while their fellow performers in the BYU Singers spent 12 days touring Arizona.

• Fast-approaching international tours await the Ballroom Dance team (Britain) and the musical ensemble Synthesis (Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Sweden).

• And the BYU women’s volleyball team traveled to China for a half dozen matches while the women’s soccer team barnstormed across Italy.

In all, 242 students and tour leaders from seven performing groups have traveled or will travel to 14 countries and 46 different cities. Meanwhile, more than 140 student athletes from five teams will visit five countries.

Brother Barrington said the students understand the tours represent much more than a few dance performances or ball games.

“They recognize that they have a special charge—the expectations are very high.”

Note: The author’s daughter is a member of the BYU women’s soccer team.

Young Ambassador Preston Taylor guides an elephant on a walk at the Elephant Sanctuary near Johannesburg, South Africa. Photo courtesy of LeePhotography.

Young Ambassador Cayel Tregeagle gives high fives to village school children outside Harare, Zimbabwe. Photo courtesy of LeePhotography.

Tanner DeWaal and Preston Taylor read a book to a child from the Lebone Village. Photo courtesy of LeePhotography.

Elder S. Gifford Nielsen, a member of the Pacific Area Presidency, thanked Living Legends performers Celeste Contreras and Katie Bair following their first performance at Trinity Cathedral Hall. Photo courtesy of Mark A. Philbrick, BYU.

Living Legends perform in Auckland, New Zealand, at Trinity Cathedral Hall. Photo courtesy of Mark A. Philbrick, BYU.

Shanoah Ulibarri receives congratulations from Tonga’s Crown Prince at 'Atele Stadium in Nuku'alofa, Tonga. Photo courtesy of Mark A. Philbrick, BYU.

Living Legends perform in Apia, Samoa, at a school assembly at Church College-Peseta Gymnasium. The Native American men perform the hoop dance. Photo courtesy of Mark A. Philbrick, BYU.

Living Legends perform in Apia, Samoa, at a school assembly at Church College-Peseta Gymnasium. Photo courtesy of Mark A. Philbrick, BYU.

After a Living Legends performance in Auckland, New Zealand, at the Vodafone Event Center, Katie Bair meets a young audience member. Photo courtesy of Mark A. Philbrick, BYU.

School assembly at Church Primary School in Sauniatu, Samoa. Photo courtesy of Mark A. Philbrick, BYU.

During the Living Legends tour, performers met with the Queen of Tonga. Photo courtesy of Mark A. Philbrick, BYU.

The BYU women's volleyball team attend Church services in Hong Kong. Photo courtesy of Danelle Parady.

BYU women's soccer players gather with the Vittorio soccer team prior to their game near Venice, Italy. Photo by McKinzie Olson.