A Massive Musical Undertaking 6

Sherri Jensen establishes a local choir and orchestra along with a music school

Sherri Jensen is convinced that mastering a musical instrument is key to establishing a person’s lifelong self-confidence and success. Jensen’s own passion for music led her to form the Draper Philharmonic & Choral Society (DPACS) and the Vezzoso School of Music. 

DPACS is a group of volunteers that currently consists of 40 vocalists and 42 instrumentalists. Most performers are from the south valley, but some drive farther to participate, including a tuba player who comes all the way from Brigham City.

“It is my intention to help the community of south valley by drawing out musicians who long to make music on their chosen instrument but have no venue worthwhile to work for,” she said. Jensen explained that many DPACS participants used to play an instrument, but they put it on a shelf as other life obligations took over. “My greatest love is to help people discover their gift and find joy in their music, either anew or for the first time.”

To establish DPACS, Jensen began by sending out a mass email to people she knew who were interested in music, asking them to forward it to others, resulting in her first choir and philharmonic rehearsals held in January of 2017.

“I had 14 choir members show up the first night and seven orchestra members, five of whom were my own children,” Jensen accounted. She knew she had to convince those who showed up that this was going to be an organized and professional project. “Because the music is in me, I had to do everything. I had to decide what our first concert would be and choose and prepare the music. Once you start something like this you’re either in it all the way, or it will fail.”

Just two months later, she led her group to hold their first concert, Lamb of God, a master choral work written by Rob Gardner. “It was a massive undertaking. Most community groups would not be capable of presenting Lamb of God in a professional way, but one of my best gifts is nurturing people and bringing them to a level of musical capacity that they maybe haven’t met with before. I felt very secure that if I could draw the musicians out, I could help them present this amazing work in a very professional way,” she said.

DPACS held a Silver Screen Music concert in October at Draper Park Middle School. John Williams’ music from Star Wars and Superman was performed along with Michael Jackson’s Thriller and City of Stars from La La Land while a movie screen above the philharmonic showed film scenes. “We intend to become an amazing organization that produces the best of concerts,” Jensen said. Both the orchestra and choir practice weekly at American Preparatory Academy in Draper.

Jensen serves as the Artistic Director and Conductor of DPACS. Her credentials include a Bachelor’s Degree in Piano Pedagogy and Performance from BYU along with 25 years of leading choirs, teaching piano and string instruments, and arranging music. For the Silver Screen concert, she arranged music for either the singers or the instrumentalists. “In movie music, it’s easy to find choral work or orchestral works, but not together, so in order for me to have the orchestra play with the choir, I had to literally write the music for one or the other group,” Jensen said.

Concerned over the loss of music programs in Utah schools in recent years, Jensen opened the Vezzoso School of Music (vay-ZTO-zto) in Draper for which she’s seeking both teachers and students ages four and above.

Eventually she plans to develop the Vandewiele Conservatory of Fine Arts (VOHN-duh-VEE-luh). Vandewiele is Jensen’s maiden name and represents her family’s strong work ethic and Dutch heritage.

Jensen hopes that Vandewiele and Vezzoso will eventually be on caliber with Julliard and other world-acclaimed schools of fine arts, with the goal to attract and retain all manner of talented students and the finest staff, ensuring that there are no financial deterrents for enrollment, encouraging advocacy for the arts throughout the world, and nurturing every student, honing their unique talents, and fostering growth in all areas of their lives.

“I have a real passion for children learning music because it wires their brain for brilliance and success,” Jensen stated. “Many children possess a gift for the arts, you need only to help them find it within themselves.”