Hoch and students sing at festival in the United Arab Emirates

Photo of Auburn students with Dr. Hoch at AUS.

Eight Auburn University students from the Department of Music in the College of Liberal Arts recently participated in the First International Music Festival hosted by the American University of Sharjah, or AUS, in the United Arab Emirates. The festival—subtitled “East Meets West”—ran from Jan. 28 to Feb. 3, and brought together American and Arab musicians for a week of music making and cultural exchange. The festival coincided with the 20th anniversary of the founding of the university, and the faculty was comprised of musicians and guest artists from the United States and across the Middle East.

Matthew Hoch, associate professor of voice and coordinator of the voice area at Auburn University, was invited to be one of three guest artists/clinicians from the United States. The invitation also opened the door for him to bring a select number of students with him to be “Western ambassadors” at the festival. Eight students from his studio took advantage of the opportunity, including: Patty Holley, a senior majoring in vocal performance and music education; Jacob Verhine, a junior majoring in vocal performance; Philip McCown, a sophomore majoring in vocal performance; Patrisha Matthews, a sophomore majoring in music education; Claudia Affan, a sophomore majoring in vocal performance and music education; Jordan Dark, a freshman majoring in vocal performance; McKenzie Hopkins, a freshman majoring in vocal performance; and Lila Meadows, a freshman majoring in music.

“Our remarkably talented students had the opportunity to travel abroad and to perform on an international stage, and experience other cultures first-hand,” Dean Joseph Aistrup said. “Dr. Hoch continues to excel in vocal performance and research, and our students benefit from his energy, enthusiasm, and his international reputation.”

Over the course of the week, students had the opportunity to participate in vocal master classes, recitals, a cross-cultural festival choir and classroom lectures in which they learned about a variety of topics. Students Philip McCown and Jacob Verhine were featured in Bizet's “Pearl Fishers' Duet,” and Patty Holley sang Dvořák's “Song to the Moon” from Rusalka.

In addition to giving a recital and master class, Hoch also gave a lecture-recital entitled “900 Years of Women Creating Music” and was invited to give a guest lecture to a women’s studies class at AUS on Wednesday of the festival.

“It was fascinating to speak with these young Middle Eastern women (and men) and get their unique perspective on these important issues. This unplanned event wound up being the highlight of the festival for me,” Hoch said.

In addition to the music-making during the official festival events, there was also some time set aside to explore the UAE itself. Side excursions included the Dubai Global Village (an EPCOT Center-like theme park that explores the various countries of the Middle East),the Burj Khalifa (the tallest building in the world, completed in 2009), the Dubai Opera (which opened in 2016), the Dubai Miracle Garden (the largest flower garden in the world with over 109 million flowers planted), a desert safari (camel riding was a particular highlight), and a tour of the recently completed Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi.

The students noted that the cultural exchanges with the Middle Eastern students emerged as the most important takeaway from the trip.

Philip McCown said, “This was a trip of a lifetime. Not only did we learn a lot about music, we learned about a new culture. We learned how to become good citizens of the world.”



Last Updated: March 14, 2018