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Duo Perform Original Arrangements on Campus

Facing the Music

By Clint Kelly ( | Photo by Luke Rutan

Violinist Alex Russell and pianist Duane Funderburk
On stage in First Free Methodist Church, adjacent to SPU's campus, violinist Alex Russell and pianist Duane Funderburk offer students fresh insight into the musical gift.

The freshmen in Professor of Music Wayne Johnson's University Seminar class were, he says, "knocked out of their seats" by the musical virtuosity of pianist Duane Funderburk '76 and violinist Alex Russell. Guest artists for the annual Schoenhals Symposium October 20–21, 2011, the men presented the students of Johnson's "Musical Monuments and Masterpieces" course with original arrangements in various genres.

"Some freshmen are undecided that musical performance is the way they should go," says Johnson, himself a piano soloist, chamber musician, and recording artist. "For them to experience artists of this caliber in class is unforgettable."

"The Symposium reminded me why I love music so much," agrees junior Enna Denisiuk, a piano performance major. "I gained a fresh perspective on how music is a gift from God and how it can be used for his glory."

Funderburk was head of the Music Department at Azusa Pacific University when Russell was a student there. They formed the Los Angeles Collaboration to inspire and educate audiences around the world with their distinctive programs. They perform 50–60 concerts a year with music that spans many styles, including classical, sacred, and jazz.

"Duane and Alex don't just play Mozart or Brahms, as you would find at a regular concert," says Johnson. "Half of their program is their own arrangements. They can take an ordinary hymn and turn it into a new work of art."

The Symposium's namesakes, Lawrence and Ruth Schoenhals, established a grant that enables Free Methodist colleges to host guest artists who have risen to prominence in the arts. Lawrence Schoenhals served Seattle Pacific for 28 years, including as head of the Music Department.

Other artists of national prominence hosted by SPU as part of the Schoenhals Symposium include music therapy pioneer Deforia Lane and Emmy Award-winning concert pianist Paul Barnes.