Published on April 20, 2014 by Cassady Weldon and Jimmy Lichtenwalter  

Usually, for college students, spring break is reserved for a much-awaited beach trip or other fun excursion. It is a break from the clutter and chaos of the spring semester and a chance to enjoy the beautiful weather along with friends or family. If anything, Spring Break is simply a time to relax and enjoy a week off classes. Yet, during Samford University's 2014 spring break, instead of going to the beach or on a cruise, 57 students and faculty of Samford's own orchestra and jazz band went on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic.

"We traveled all over the island, and we played music for hundreds of people.  I would guess that the combined total from all of the orchestra and jazz band concerts would be close to 4,000 people," said Grant Dalton, jazz band director and assistant professor in the School of the Arts. "And, that doesn't include all of the churches that we worked with on Sunday, or the school where we demonstrated instruments, or the master classes that we gave. It was a special time with some fantastic students."

This couldn't be more true for Michael Naro, a junior and guitar player in the jazz band. While he had a language barrier between himself and the Dominican students, Naro found his experience teaching Dominican students about guitar to be extremely fulfilling.

"While we didn't speak the same language, we still had music in common," he said. "And music itself is a universal language that anyone can speak."

In addition to holding workshops for Dominican students, the members of the jazz band and orchestra also had several live performances.  The jazz band played a concert for more than 300 people in the city of Punta Cana, while the orchestra held a concert in a Baptist church in Santo Domingo for about 1,500 people.

"The satisfying thing is that for many people, this was the first live concert they had ever seen," said Naro. "We were happy to give that to them."

"We worked hard, we shared music with thousands, we shared our love of Christ and the Christian mission of our beloved university," said Dalton. "It was an amazing time with wonderful students."

The trip was in the planning stages for more than a year, according to Brian Viliunas, assistant professor and Samford Orchestra director. The trip was the latest of several international trips and concerts by Samford's music division.

Cassady Weldon and Jimmy Lichtenwalter are journalism and mass communication majors and news and feature writers in Samford's Office of Marketing and Communication.


Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.