Commercial Music Expo empowers young musicians

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Ari Davis
Music instructor Yahosh Bonner teaches students how to improve their performance on stage. BYU hosts a commercial music expo on campus with professional musicians to help young musicians succeed in the music industry. (Ari Davis)

Music industry professionals taught the next generation of musicians how to succeed at BYU’s Commercial Music Expo, a two-day event filled with music workshops, devotionals and concerts.

This year’s expo, July 14–15, was filled with the maximum number of participants: 100 students. The students learned about subjects such as songwriting, entrepreneurship, recording and stage performance in the Harris Fine Arts Center.

The School of Music sponsored the event, allowing students to attend for free. All the instructors were volunteers who donated their time.

“This is free feedback from professionals who are here out of the goodness of their hearts,” said Eliza Smith, an intern for the expo. 

Singer Yahosh Bonner — who has performed with James the Mormon, Alex Boyé and others — began his lecture with an analogy of a lobster. Bonner said as a lobster grows, its shell becomes tight, forcing the lobster to remove its shell and make a new one. Growth is uncomfortable and at times painful, according to Bonner.

“If you’re always comfortable, you won’t grow,” Bonner said.

BYU commercial music alumna Amy Whitcom was a member of Noteworthy during her time at BYU. She returned to BYU as an instructor for the expo.

“I would have loved to be a resource like this when I was at school, so I was more than happy to come and contribute,” Whitcom said. “As an alumna, I want to come back and give back.”

Katherine Cox, a high school student who attended the expo, said the event was inspiring and she appreciated the instructors’ ability to teach principles of originality while also pushing them to become better musicians.

“(The instructors) are very inspiring about individuality and sharing the talents that you have,” Cox said.

BYU commercial music graduate Colin Rivera taught students how to receive criticism and appreciate the inspiration they receive. He said many musicians lose themselves when they receive criticism that takes away from their authenticity.

“Learn how to understand the nuances of criticism and treasure your inspiration,” Rivera said.

High school student Brookelynn Harris said being surrounded by talented people is helpful because they can provide criticism.

“I think it’s incredible that we all have something to give, and there are so many talented people here with so much crazy potential,” Harris said.

Hannah Gabrielsen and Eliza Smith organized the event. Gabrielsen, a BYU graduate, created the expo for her senior project.

“There is nothing like this anywhere else within several states,” Gabrielsen said, “We have people outside the state who come here for this event from Michigan, Missouri and Kentucky.”

Smith contacted the instructors and marketed the expo using social media.

“I wish there had been a program for me when I was preparing for the commercial music program,” Smith said.