Asbury Music Student Wins KMEA Composition Contest – Asbury University
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Asbury Music Student Wins KMEA Composition Contest

February 23, 2024

Levi Smith ’25

Asbury Music major Levi Smith ’25 recently won the Kentucky Music Educators Association (KMEA) composition contest for his piece, Rebirth. Conducted by Dr. Johnie Dean, Smith’s piece performed at Whitney Hall (Kentucky Center for the Arts), as part of the All-State Collegiate Choir and All-State Collegiate Band Concert on Feb. 8.

“It feels surreal to receive this award,” Smith said. “I knew that I wanted to compose a piece that was modal and in odd meter. From there, I chose the instruments and started to put it together.”

Smith also won the composition award for the 2024 Peniston Honors Competition at Asbury University. His piece will be played by an Asbury University chamber ensemble on April 18 at 7:30 p.m. in the Jameson Recital Hall.

“This is truly an honor and a joy to have Levi win this award, and such a positive for Asbury,” said Asbury Instructor of Composition Dr. Johnie Dean. “His piece demonstrated real growth in his composition skills and creativity; it was amazing to see his resolve as he worked through the piece. We are all very proud of Levi and all of our music composition students.”

Smith reflects on his Asbury Music experience.

Dr. Johnie Dean

“All of the music professors positively have impacted me,” he said. “Dr. Johnie Dean has provided me with guidance, balance, and structure, understanding practical details about the range of instruments and how different instruments tend to be played. Dr. Nathan Miller ’05 and Dr. Vicki Bell also have taught me so much.”

Asbury Music students continue to thrive in their professions.

Dr. Shawn Okpebholo ’03 serves as Jonathan Blanchard professor of composition and music theory at Wheaton College-Conservatory of Music (Ill.) and received a 2023 Grammy nomination for Best Classical Vocal Solo Album for Lord, How Come Me Here?

“Asbury’s music faculty are world-class, and the department is small, which means that I received personalized instruction which was a huge blessing and advantage,” Okpebholo shared. “In addition to James Curnow and Dr. Ronald Holz, very few professors have impacted me as much as Dr. Vicki Bell. She was influential in cultivating my love for teaching composition and theory. All of these professors encouraged me, prayed for me, and served as spiritual mentors and role models for me.”

The Asbury University Music Department offers a major in Music (with emphases in composition and arranging, instrumental performance, pre-music therapy, vocal performance, and church music leadership), a major in Music Education (with emphases in general music education, instrumental music education, vocal/choral education, and combined instrumental/vocal education), and a minor in Music. Learn more: