Austin Westjohn, instrumental music major, was selected as a finalist for a position with Disney World All-American College Band, based in Anaheim, California. He is a trombonist from Conway, Arkansas, and will be a senior in the fall at Harding University.
Disney World All-American College Band has been an institution since 1971 at the Disneyland Resort. This program gives the top college musicians from all over the country a chance to preform and learn at Disney Theme Park and other clinics with world-renown artists.
“This was my second year auditioning for the group, and I was encouraged after making it past the video auditions and being personally invited to the live audition in Dallas,” Westjohn said. “Before I auditioned and had my interview, my family said a prayer in the car. I am a strong believer that God can use anyone wherever he needs them.”
Final auditions were held in five different locations around the nation and Westjohn went to the University of North Texas for his. He noticed about 60 trombonists in his group alone who were trying out for the four open positions.
“I remember particularly a trombonist who auditioned before me who was completing his master's degree at UNT in jazz performance,” Westjohn remarked. “He was incredible — I could hear him through the wall, but I tried to focus on what I do best and not worry about others.”
Although Westjohn did not make the final selection, he did make it into the alternate group. His other auditions went well, and he was chosen to perform at two music festivals in Hot Springs, Arkansas, and Miami, Florida, this summer.
“These are very prestigious festivals, and I feel honored to have been selected for both of these and get an experience that prepares me for graduate school and professional performance settings,” he said. “I have no doubt in my mind that the Lord has placed me where he needs me to be this summer and hope that I can use my passion for music to reach out to other people.”
“Music was a natural part of my family as simple as spaghetti; nothing particularly flashy just expected.”
Rives Rorabaugh, Harding University music alumna, has started a music program for an inner-city Christian school serving students under the poverty line. After two years, she has 420 students in grades K4-8.
Rorabaugh was hired to start a music program for HOPE: Fortis, a Choice school in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Students do not pay for tuition at a Choice school and most do not come from Christian backgrounds.
“Who knew that God was setting up a situation where I would be working across economic, political and cultural divides and celebrating his creativity in diversity,” Rorabaugh said. “It was my Harding dream to find a career where I would be helping the hurt and abused to his warm arms for the first time in their lives, but I had no idea it would be in this way.”
Rorabaugh said she did not choose what she is doing now; God did. She wanted to give the children a chance to prove they are capable of overcoming difficult circumstances and excelling, despite their lack of resources or zip code.
“My 425 kids have all gotten a chance to sing, dance, play, analyze, direct and create throughout the year,” Rorabaugh said. “They’ve composed their own music more than their local peers, despite having music for the first time ever last year!"