Professor helped grow Liberty’s top-notch music school over past 30 years
There are a number of important virtues foundational to any career, but three stand out to Liberty University School of Music Professor Dr. John Hugo.
“I am so blessed to have served where values like truth, goodness, and beauty are so important to the institutional mission,” Hugo said during a recent interview. “Truth, goodness, and beauty should be important in the pursuit of any occupation, not just music; we must pursue truth, we must pursue goodness, and we must pursue what is beautiful in whatever we do to glorify God.”
In his past 30 years of service on Liberty’s music faculty, Hugo has witnessed explosive growth on Liberty’s campus, resulting in the School of Music becoming the seventh largest in the country and the addition of the magnificent Center for Music and the Worship Arts, completed in 2015.
“I’ve seen the campus change into something that has little relation to what was here in 1988,” Hugo said. “What a blessing to be teaching here in a School of Music building that I could not have dreamed of 30 years ago!”
Hugo has made his mark on Liberty’s history in many ways. In the early 1990s, he penned “Fan the Flames,” the official fight song of Liberty Athletics, played countless times a year at sporting events, and “Champions, Arise!,” Liberty’s alma mater, sung at every Concert Choir concert and played at Commencement.
He has been involved in a number of faculty organizations, including the Undergraduate Faculty Senate (for which he has long served as parliamentarian) and the President’s Ad Hoc Committee on Traditions.
As Chair of Music Theory and History, Hugo helped develop LU’s music curriculum and worked to help the School of Music gain National Association of Schools of Music (NASM) accreditation. He currently teaches choral conducting, music history, and private voice and has conducted well over 100 performances with the LU Concert Choir.
“I have tried to design my courses to benefit the students in the most tangible ways,” Hugo said. “I give them as much as they can handle because, in the end, it’s more rewarding for them as they become highly competitive Christian professionals.”
But Hugo’s proudest legacy — one that has helped fortify Liberty as a leading institution for Christian musicians — is the body of music alumni he has helped to train. He is particularly proud of students who have gone on to study at prestigious graduate institutions. To his knowledge, no student who has completed his music history courses has ever failed to pass entrance exams for graduate studies at places like Eastman, Ithaca, New England Conservatory, Temple University, the University of Arizona, and Florida State University. These LU alumni include Kristine Biller Matteson, who sings and teaches voice with Opera Philadelphia; Dr. David Chin, who conducts annual Bach festivals throughout Southeast Asia; professional operatic tenors Joshua Bouillon, Andrew Struhar, and Andrew Ellis; opera soprano Bree Jordan Nichols; and baritone Dr. Chadwick Somers.
Hugo holds a choral DMA and MM in vocal performance from Arizona State University, and an MM from New England Conservatory of Music, where he studied with legendary choral conductor Lorna Cooke deVaron. He also serves as chorus master for the Roanoke Symphony Chorus and recently composed a choral/orchestral work, “Lift Up Your Heads,” for the dedication of Liberty’s new Concert Hall.
“In choral music, there are wonderful moments when the choir’s hard work finally results in a beautiful performance, one that you know brings glory to God,” Hugo mused. “Music has a unique power to convey truth, goodness, and beauty, but a successful performance requires dedicated effort. When those three things are present, people forget that they are hearing music; they become aware of the truth, goodness, and beauty present in the sound, and, hopefully, they think about the truth, goodness, and beauty of God and give thanks to Him for this great gift.”