Utah Voices is thrilled to welcome Luke Shepherd to our organization as a new Associate Conductor and Principal Accompanist. Luke will soon be graduating from Utah State University with a degree in choral education and has spent the last several years as a featured soloist and guest artist with numerous performing ensembles, the music director and pianist at the Old Lyric Repertory Company, and even the “Prestidigitating Piano Player of Pickleville Playhouse.” He currently works as a music director for the Utah State University Department of Theater Arts.
We got the chance to ask Luke about more than just his impressive resumé. Check out our Q&A below to find out who made Luke first buy a harmonica and why he joined Utah Voices.
I think one of the biggest reasons I got into piano in particular was because of Billy Joel. Since as long as I can remember I loved the music of Billy Joel. When I was 12 years old I wanted to play “Piano Man” so badly that I went to the music store, bought a harmonica and a “how to play harmonica” book, and subsequently taught myself the harmonica and piano parts to “Piano Man.” It became a staple of my repertoire. Since then, playing harmonica/piano duets with myself has been one of my favorite outlets.
How did you decide to pursue music as a college major and as a career, rather than just a hobby?
I think I always knew that music was my passion, even from a very young age, but I hit a roadblock initially in college. I’ll give you the watered down version. My freshman year as a music major was pretty depressing. I was involved in everything I could cram into my schedule — marching band, basketball band, jazz band, jazz combo, chorale, trombone ensemble, symphonic band, chamber singers, saxophone lessons, voice lessons — with the hopes that I could find a niche somewhere; however, no professors took an interest in me and I felt overlooked and unimportant.
I served a two-year [church] mission, then returned to the university with serious doubts as to whether or not I should really pursue music. It was my first week back at school that I met Michael Huff. I auditioned for an ensemble he was directing, and he was the first of my professors to take any notice of me. He introduced me to the head of the theater department, Ken Risch, and got me work as musical director at the university, among a dozen other opportunities. In a nutshell, I didn’t believe in myself until Michael and Ken did. It’s because of Michael Huff and Ken Risch that I didn’t quit on myself, school, and my ambitions several years ago.
I’m really looking forward to the association with the members of the choir. There is nothing in the world like making good music with people you love.
Tell us a little about your interests outside of music. If you had a weekend without any rehearsals, performances or studying, what do you do with it?
On the very rare occasion that I have a weekend without rehearsals, performances, or studying, I would play basketball and tennis with my friends, go hiking in Logan canyon, and maybe, just maybe, I would be able to go on a date with a special someone.
You’re at a very exciting time of your life – finishing up with school, getting started in a career. What are your goals for the next five or ten years?
During the next five years I hope to be teaching music at the secondary level somewhere and music directing for the musical theater. Marriage is pretty high on that list, too. I definitely want to pursue graduate degrees later on and perhaps teach at the university level. We’ll see if in 25 years the Mormon Tabernacle Choir wants to hire me as their next director or not.
I don’t see why they wouldn’t! One last question – what is the most important thing that you want Utah Voices singers and fans to know about you?
I love music. I feel strongly about the powerful force music is for good in the world and in the lives of individuals who both listen to and participate in music-making. I feel so blessed to be able to do what I love with the people I love and for the people I love. There is no greater gift I could give.