Guest artists Gladys Knight, Peter Hollens and Lexi Mae Walker will collaborate with on-campus performing groups to represent the Homecoming theme “Go With Courage” at BYU Spectacular! on Saturday, Oct. 15.
Artistic director Jennifer Reed said Spectacular! traditionally honors the life and accomplishments of a BYU founder. This year’s performance will pay respect to the courage and example of Susa Young Gates. Gates was Brigham Young’s daughter who helped with Utah’s suffrage movement, founded the Brigham Young Academy Music Department, started multiple women’s magazines and published several books.
Reed said she wanted this year’s headliner to be a woman because much of Gates’ efforts were focused on helping women. Gladys Knight, known in the music industry as the “empress of soul,” seemed like a natural choice.
“It just seemed like such a great, easy fit with Gladys,” Reed said. “To have this iconic headliner, who’s also a woman, who’s also pretty courageous to join the Church, especially in that industry.”
This year is unique in that Knight will be joined by two other guest performers: YouTube star Peter Hollens and Utahn Lexi Mae Walker. Show producer Jeffrey Martin said this year’s BYU Spectacular! is bringing together three unique artists to engage the widest audience possible.
Each artist will hopefully bring their own audience, Martin said, so students, alumni and locals will all leave the performance having discovered someone new.
Hollens and Walker also fit the theme of courage, Reed said. Hollens found success by building a following of more than 1 million YouTube subscribers, and 14-year-old Walker is launching a career in music at a young age.
“They just kind of make their own ways. They make their own paths,” Reed said. “So they’re all kind of courageous in their own ways.”
Walker said she was looking forward to singing at BYU, especially since it will give her the chance to work with talented performers.
“I’m excited to watch such awesome people perform and do their thing,” Walker said in an email. “They (Knight and Hollens) are both really different performers, and I still have a lot to learn.”
All three artists will collaborate with BYU performing groups and clubs for the show. Vocal Point will act in place of Knight’s usual backup singers for several songs, Hollens will sing while the Theatre Ballet Company dances and everyone will combine for a grand finale.
Vocal Point member Logan Shelton, a junior majoring in marriage and family studies, said the opportunity to perform with such distinguished artists is exciting.
“It’s just cool to see somebody who’s worked really hard and been really successful come and just kind of be your friend,” Shelton said.
Groups like Vocal Point, the Cougarettes, Noteworthy and the BYU Young Ambassadors practice numbers on their own and coordinate with the guest artists at dress rehearsals. Their combined efforts will support the show’s theme to inspire audience members.
“Our whole purpose is to lift others to a place they weren’t before they heard our music,” Shelton said. “So this message goes exactly with our purpose, ‘Go With Courage,’ and it’s more like encouraging people to go out and do exactly what we’re doing.”
BYU Spectacular! will show on Saturday, Oct. 15 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available at byutickets.com.