Winners of Baylor’s Semper Pro Musica Competition to Perform at Carnegie Hall Thursday

Semper Pro 2019
Winners of the Semper Pro Musica competition will be traveling to New York next week to perform at Carnegie Hall Thursday. Front row (left to right): Javier Castro, Josh Blessing, Matthew Newhouse, Megan Gackle, John-Micah Braswell, Nathan Little Back row (left to right): Felicity Fulton, Caleb Estrada-Valentín, Jessica Peacock, Nathan Stanfield, Jonathan Passmore, Derek Moseley, Connor Wooley, Dawson Ward, Nathan Taylor, Nicholas Halbig, Adele Fuqua
May 17, 2019

Media Contact: Terry Goodrich, Baylor University Media and Public Relations, 254-710-3321
Follow Baylor Media Communications on Twitter: @BaylorUMedia

by Brooke Hill, student newswriter

WACO, Texas (May 17, 2019) — Seventeen student winners of Baylor’s fourth annual Semper Pro Musica Solo & Chamber competition will perform at New York City’s prestigious Carnegie Hall on Thursday.

The Semper Pro Musica Competition is presented to inspire students within the School of Music toward musical excellence. This year, 125 students competed, which is about a third of overall music major enrollment, and a record number of students who participated.

“As a musician, any time you’re able to perform in such a prolific venue is always exciting and very humbling — especially Carnegie Hall. The mantra is ‘How do you get to perform in Carnegie Hall? You practice, practice, practice,’ which is very true,” said master’s candidate Nathan Taylor, member of the trombone octet.

The students also are excited to get to spend a couple of hard-earned days in the city that never sleeps.

“Just being from Texas, we don’t really get to see a metropolis like New York City. We have Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, Houston, but nothing like New York City, where you can’t see the sky because the buildings are so tall. I’m really excited for the change of pace for a few days,” Taylor said.

Gary Mortenson, D.M.A, dean of the Baylor School of Music, said performing on stage in Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie is a lifetime achievement for the students declared winners.

“There are no words to fully describe the thrill to walk onto one of the most historically important halls in the world and perform,” Mortenson said. “Weill Recital Hall is where about 98 percent of ‘Carnegie Hall Debuts’ take place. It is arguably the most important recital space in the world over the last century. New York City, like London and Paris, is at the very top of the cultural/artistic world. The experience of performing there is truly an experience like no other in the world of music today. The students representing Baylor will remember performing at Carnegie Hall for the rest of their lives.”

The winners of the solo competition are Josh Blessing (Dearborn, Michigan, master’s candidate, marimba), John-Micah Braswell (Fort Collins, Colorado, senior, piano), Javier Castro (Dickinson, Texas, junior, flute), Megan Gackle (Waco, Texas, master’s candidate, mezzo-soprano), Nathan Little (Argyle, Texas, senior, trumpet) and Matthew Newhouse (Conroe, Texas, senior, tenor).

The winners of the Eight Position (trombone octet) chamber competition are Nick Halbig (Cooper City, Florida, senior), Connor Wooley (Denton, Texas, junior), Dawson Ward (Fate, Texas, sophomore), Adele Fuqua (Jacksonville, Florida, master’s candidate), Taylor (Midland, Texas), Derek Moseley (Cypress, Texas, junior), Nathan Stanfield (Spring, Texas, freshman) and Jonathan Passmore (Arlington, Texas, senior).

The winners of the Flute Fleet (flute quartet) chamber competition are Castro, Felicity Fulton (Lorena, Texas, junior), Jessica Peacock (Grand Prairie, Texas, senior) and Caleb Estrada-Valentín, (Coppell, Texas, senior).

Estrada-Valentín said he’s excited to get to perform upbeat, modern music with his quartet.

“It’s been hard to realize that we’re traveling to New York to perform in one of the most iconic recital halls in the entire U.S. We’re presenting new music, that hasn’t really been performed by many ensembles, in Carnegie Hall. We get to represent the School of Music and kind of act as liaisons for these composers who probably don’t have a lot of flute quartets playing their music. The music that we’re playing is so captivating, so energetic — it’s so different,” Estrada-Valentín said.

Baylor professors who guided students throughout the competition will travel to New York with their students, and Estrada-Valentín said he’s excited to spend time with one of his mentors.

“I’m looking forward to the opportunity to making some really great memories with these people, and not only them, but our professors traveling with us, too,” he said. “My professor was such a big mentor and role model this entire competition, so getting to spend time with my professors outside of Waco celebrating where we’ve come so far as musicians will be a good time.”

The traveling party will include President Linda A. Livingstone, Ph.D., Provost Nancy Brickhouse, Ph.D., and a number of key donors to Baylor University. Weill Recital Hall seats 268 people, and Dean Mortenson said just about every seat will be filled in this incredibly elegant recital space.

The performance will be at 8 p.m. Thursday in Weill Recital Hall. Tickets range from $35-50 and are available through the Carnegie Hall Box Office or through the Baylor School of Music. For more information, visit the School of Music website or call the concert promotions line at 254-710-3991.


Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 17,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.


The Baylor University School of Music provides transformational experiences that prepare students for careers in music. Students thrive in a Christian environment characterized by a nurturing resident faculty, an unwavering pursuit of musical excellence, a global perspective, dedication to service and devotion to faith. They investigate the rich musical and cultural heritage of the past, develop superior musical skills and knowledge in the present, and explore and create new modes of musical expression for the future. While preparing for future leadership roles, students join with School of Music faculty in enhancing the quality of community life, enriching the larger culture and making Baylor a place in which heart, mind and soul coalesce. Baylor’s School of Music is a member of the National Association of Schools of Music and the Texas Association of Music Schools. Degree programs include bachelor’s and master’s degrees in performance, music education and academic majors, as well as doctoral degrees in church music. Degrees leading to the Bachelor of Music Education conform to certification requirements of the Texas Education Agency. Visit to learn more.

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