Combating the Attack on Men and Boys

By:Matt Rasmussen
As a boy I remember waking up each morning for family scripture study and coming downstairs with uplifting music playing to help set the tone and provide the right spirit in my home. I learned as a young boy the influence music can have on you emotionally and spiritually. I’m grateful I learned to recognize, appreciate and love worthy music, a gift that has served me well throughout my life.

Unfortunately, we live in a world where good things are constantly under attack. There is a satanic substitute for all that is uplifting and positive. As parents of nine children, my wife and I are constantly aware of how bombarded boys are today with filth, pornography, immorality, and violence, and that often they don’t even realize it. It’s so subtle and shrewd, and has the appearance of normal, that often if we don’t point it out to them they may not see it for what it is. How do we combat this? How can we have a greater influence than everything they see or hear at school, online, on TV, on the radio, or on their phones? Well, there’s not one answer that’s the same for each person. But there’s one thing that my wife and I do constantly that we hope will put the odds in our favor: continue to expose our children, especially our two sons who are the oldest, to worthy and uplifting music that will help them feel the Spirit and draw closer to Jesus Christ.

I still distinctly remember my first rehearsal with MCO as a baritone in the Grand Chorus. It was an all-day boot camp rehearsal where we were taught and trained by the directors. I remember the feeling and Spirit that was there in the rehearsal, and five minutes in, I felt a twinge of sadness. I was sad that I hadn’t auditioned for the choir a few years earlier when my friend had originally invited me. With work, a large and growing family, and other commitments, I dismissed the invitation. I was too busy, didn’t have the time, and didn’t want to put an unnecessary burden on my wife by being gone one night a week for rehearsal. But this time, with a new invitation to audition, I somehow felt differently, and my wife agreed to let me try out. There was something special at this first rehearsal that I had never quite felt before. My sadness changed to pure elation as the rehearsal continued. And it grew and grew that whole first semester with each week that passed as we prepared for the Christmas concerts. I still clearly and distinctly remember the overwhelming Spirit that filled my heart and soul as we sang “O Holy Night”. I had difficulty getting through that song each time we sang it. I remember being so proud to be part of this great movement and was so glad my wife was there to see in person what I’d been trying, unsuccessfully, to explain to her for a few months. There were tears in her eyes after as well, and we both knew we wanted our kids to experience this, especially our boys.Matt Rasmussen & Sons

My oldest son, Drex, joined the Concert Choir a semester later, then my second son, Braden, a semester after him. And since then, we have been an MCO family, with my two oldest daughters also participating. There is nothing quite like hearing the buzz and chatter of my kids talking about MCO around the home. I hear things like, “Summer is the worst because there’s no MCO” or “There’s no way we can top that concert next semester…except that’s what I said after last concert”. And sometimes I feel bad for my wife and younger children at the dinner table in the weeks right before and after concert time as we rehash the entire experience and discuss our favorite and most memorable parts. MCO has been a binding and unifying light in my family, for which I, as a father, will always be grateful.

And that is especially true for my boys. They have felt the Spirit outside of church and the home, and in a way that only worthy music can provide. They recognize the power of singing sacred texts that serve as a prayer and a testimony of the Savior, whose life and example they strive to follow. They can now discern the difference between how good music makes you feel, and how questionable music drives away the Spirit. They have also shared with me that sacred music helps keep evil thoughts away and replaces them with light and truth, which is one of the reasons they love going to MCO rehearsals each week. They recognize that they need more than just worshipping on Sundays to combat the evil that surrounds them. Boyd K. Packer taught, “As the music begins and as the words form in your thoughts, the unworthy ones will slip shamefully away. It will change the whole mood on the stage of your mind. Because it is uplifting and clean, the baser thoughts will disappear. For while virtue, by choice, will not associate with filth, evil cannot tolerate the presence of light.” (Inspiring Music-Worthy Thoughts, October 1973)

My son Braden is naturally athletic and a very good athlete. Last December, after the Christmas concerts, he was invited by coaches to participate in club baseball through his high school. This meant that he would have practice every Tuesday and Thursday night, and games in addition to that. He was very excited that he was asked to participate. But if he decided to play on this team, he would not be able to participate in MCO for that upcoming semester. He was very distraught at making that decision.

I asked him to weigh out the pros and cons of each choice, and then take the matter to the Lord to make his decision, as you can always get the right answer through prayer. Later that night, he came to me and my wife and said, “I trust Professor Stewart. He promised us that if we would participate in MCO this coming semester, our lives would be changed forever. I am putting my trust in Professor Stewart.”

The fascinating part to this story is that we didn’t even know what we would be doing that upcoming semester. But Braden knew what he wanted to do and had faith in his answer. A few weeks later, as last semester started, Professor Stewart announced that we would be singing Mendelsohn’s “Elijah”, a classic and timeless sacred work, as part of the concert entitled “Deliver Us”. Every song practiced for months and sung at the concerts told the story of God’s deliverance of his people through following a prophet of God. These truths could not have been more powerfully delivered into the hearts and minds of my sons than they were through this sacred music. With each rehearsal, their love for the music grew and their excitement to perform it skyrocketed. And the four concerts in two days did not disappoint.Elijah Boy

Late that Saturday night after getting home from the final concert, we all stayed up late basking in the Spirit and sheer exhaustion of the previous few days. But it was my son’s comment that I will always remember. Braden said, “Dad…my life has been changed forever. I have no words to describe it.”

And that is the miracle and blessing of MCO. I feel the power of the music each week personally, and to have my kids feel the same thing is something I consider one of my greatest blessings. Braden, just this week, said it perfectly when he shared with me that, “MCO is an amazing blessing in my life. The Spirit is strong there every week. The music puts a good feeling inside me and inspires me to be good.”

So it does.

So, How Do We Save America?

By: Brett Stewart

My high school water polo and swim coach was relentless. Notoriously. He was known for either throwing something IN the pool or pulling someone OUT of the pool, always with some variation of fury. More than once my parents received a 6:00 AM-ish unapologetic phone call from him, asking why I wasn’t at practice yet. They made a career of reminding him that I was attending seminary at 5:15 AM in order to make it to practice each morning, and that I would be a little bit late. I’ll never forget the times he tore off his shirt and threw himself in the pool (all in a very dramatic manner) to demonstrate some technique or drill that we were slaughtering (usually out of sheer laziness). He just didn’t tolerate anything but 100%. He garnered the respect of his students because even though he was our parents’ age, he could still play his sport -well. As I watched his temper flare and then the perfect demonstration of how it was supposed to be done, I remember thinking, “You’re insane. And, you rock!” His tactics would never fly today. But two decades ago it delivered results, in many ways.

Aside from titles and championships, he taught work ethic to thousands of youth. He deliberately made the way difficult so that the prize was earned and deserved. It fostered self-awareness and self-esteem. I haven’t come across a past student of his that doesn’t respect and love that man (even the smart alecs who bore the brunt of his wrath). Most look back at those years with fondness, because a mentor went out of his way to turn entitled, immature youth into young adults with purpose and promise.


I was not a dedicated piano student. Several days before competitions I scrambled to finish memorizing and polishing my pieces, trying to convince myself that it sounded better than it did, or that I could, with my deplorable lack of preparation, wow the judges with my raw talent. Mom had a way of keeping things real. “Signing up for this competition was a waste of money,” she’d say. “You haven’t practiced and you’ve left it all to the last minute and it sounds awful. There are mistakes all over the place.” By the time we arrived at the competition she would soften her message with something like, “Just concentrate and do your best. Hopefully the judges will look past all the mistakes.” Thanks for the pep talk, Mom!

I somehow always pulled through with a 3rd place or Honorable Mention win, which I could have falsely interpreted as a reward for my efforts except that I had my mother there to keep things in perspective. “Well, you pulled it off again, Brett. You know, no one plays with as much musicality and passion as you. If you’d practice you’d actually win.” I always knew that my Honorable Mention was due to sheer talent, not hard work, and that if I simply worked hard I would enjoy the greater prize and the satisfaction of having really earned and deserved it.

Instead of blaming our parents for their tough-love approach and brutal honesty, my siblings now sit around at family gatherings and laugh about these things. We thank God for parents who focused on reality, even when it was painful. We are grateful for the fact that we had to earn our success – that we had to work hard. We attribute our success and our ability to function as responsible parents and citizens and members of our church and community to the fact that we always knew where we stood, and that praise was deserved, not fabricated. Self-esteem was earned, not gifted.


While teaching high school I came across the article “A Nation of Wimps,” in which Hara Marano, Psychology Today’s Editor at Large, candidly spells out the disastrous effect of parents and mentors coddling youth in today’s society. Even though I have seven children I am a novice parent. A typical response to my children’s complaints is, “You can tell your therapist all about it when you’re an adult, and you’re welcome to blame all of your issues on your mom and me. Now, go clean up the dog poop.” I can’t say that I have the best parenting approach, because I’m sure I don’t. But my concern isn’t centered on the perfect parenting; it is centered on kids being competent and tough enough to function in this great big world without having success handed to them on a silver platter. My concern is that kids will not blame their problems on imperfect parents or mentors, but will have the resolve and tenacity to stop focusing on their problems and reach outside themselves to make a difference in the world. My concern is that kids will understand reality in a world that is increasingly fabricated.


Three truths are widely accepted in the world today:

      1. Youth are in a spiritual war. They are being spiritually challenged more than at any other time in the history of the world. Satan and his forces have opened the floodgates. We are in the middle of a cultural revolution and the influences are overwhelming.

      2. Youth are being raised in a ME society. Today, the “other gods” spoken of in the first of the Ten Commandments are clearly ourselves. We live in a world of selfies. My feelings, my choices, my rights. Society has created the problem. It is now so difficult to get into a good college that otherwise fantastic youth are hyper-focused on their schooling, their grades, and their test scores, to the degree that there is no time or even innate desire to reach out and serve others. While our grandparents were enlisting in the most devastating war the modern world had ever known, our youth are enlisting in themselves and their future. They are marrying and starting families later than ever before. The focus is ME.

      3. Youth are entitled. They have less physical demands and more comforts than any other generation in the history of the world. The rigid labors and harsh social/religious climates that existed for thousands of years until the 20th-century advancements are extinct, at least in their comfortable sphere. They have never experienced the literal building of a nation through war and conflict. They have never experienced real, life-altering religious persecution. They have never suffered through a devastating economic depression. And technology is paralyzing youth physically, socially, and spiritually.

Despite these challenges, it is my personal belief that God has saved his strongest spirits to come to earth in these troubling last days. These youth must be given opportunities to work hard, be pushed, and accomplish something great as a result of their own efforts. And if that accomplishment benefits someone other than themselves, bonus!


As one of MCO’s founders I work to provide a power-packed combination of the experiences of the mentors described above, founded upon the principles of discipline and hard work, where the reward is the satisfaction of having really earned and deserved something. Even better, it does all of this while exposing youth on a weekly basis to what prophets and apostles have deemed the most powerful conduit to the Lord than perhaps anything except prayer – sacred music. And the result is shared with thousands who come to be spiritually fed and uplifted by singers and instrumentalists who have perfected their craft in order to deliver excellence. While researching repertoire for MCO’s “To Be American” album I came across an old American hymn, “God Save America.” The title haunted me. I thought if “God Bless America” was the American rallying cry of the 20th century, “God Save America” ought to be the clarion call of the 21st. People of all religious, social, racial, and political backgrounds have their own ideas of whether America is suffering, and how. But, as revealed in the studies referenced in “A Nation of Wimps” and elsewhere, one of the most concerning reasons America is suffering is the way we are raising her youth. Obviously God is the only being that can save America, or the world for that matter. But we can assist as we raise America’s youth. As I explained to the youth last year when they recorded “America the Beautiful,” it is the anti-self anthem. If we could teach youth to “more than self their country love, and mercy more than life,” or that all their “success be nobleness, and every gain divine,” or to “confirm [their] soul in self control, [their] liberty in law,” we just might help God save America.

All The Romantic Songs You Need To Know For Valentines Day

Planning on singing to someone this Valentines Day? Need help deciding which song will represent your “True Feelings” to that special someone? Need help from a trained ear? Someone who has your back, musically speaking? Look no further! Well just keep reading a little further, and then no further!

MCO’s Stewart brothers, Brett and Brandon, have collected for you their favorite romantic playlists for Valentines Day! Keeping multiple genres in mind, Brett and Brandon rummaged through their geniuses and found their top Classical, Broadway, Movie Soundtrack, and Pop songs for your aid and enjoyment!

(Click the word “playlist” on each video to see all of the videos in each playlist.)

Perhaps it’s by their romantic rhythms or their beautiful lines, but composers have always held the iconic power to attract the yearning heart with beautifully written music. They may be from the romantic period, or just plain romantic, period! Check out Brett and Brandon’s favorite romantic songs in their Classical playlist.

1. Rachmaninoff 2nd Piano Concerto, 2nd movement (Inspiration for “All By Myself” by Eric Carmen)
2. Oh My Love’s Like a Red, Red Rose – James Mulholland
3. 5 Hebrew Love Songs – Eric Whitacre
4. Beethoven Pathetique Sonata movement 2
5. Beethoven Moonlight Sonata movement 1
6. Chopin Etude Op. 10 #3
7. Taneyev Piano Quartet, movement 2 (Inspiration for “Blue Moon” by the Righteous Brothers)
8. Widmung – Schuman-Liszt
9. Brahms Intermezzo in A Major
10. Nessun Dorma
11. O Mio Babbino Caro
12. Waltz from Sleeping Beauty Ballet Suite – Tchaikovsky

On stage for all to hear, these all-emotion bearing broadway songs take any romantic setting up a notch. Who knew some of the most romantic songs would be from the musical, ‘Jekyll & Hyde’!?

1. Maria from West Side Story
2. Somewhere – West Side Story
3. Once Upon a Dream – Jekyll & Hyde
4. In His Eyes – Jekyll and Hyde
5. Till There Was you – Music Man
6. Something Good – Sound of Music
7. 16 Going on 17 – Sound of Music
8. People Will Say We’re in Love – Oklahoma!
9. Lilly’s Eyes – The Secret Garden
10. I Could Have Danced All Night – My Fair Lady
11. All I Ask of You – Phantom of the Opera
12. A Heart Full of Love – Les Miserables
13. Someone to Watch Over Me – Crazy For You

Movie Soundtrack
You’re watching a movie, you begin swooning over the character’s unrealistic expectations for romance. You start to relate to the character, wondering why you couldn’t be loved like that! Chances are one of these songs is playing in the background, doing all the work. Here’s the Stewart Brother’s favorite Movie Soundtrack playlist.

1. Sabrina Theme – John Williams
2. Tara Theme – Gone With the Wind
3. Somewhere in Time – 18th Variation, Rachmaninoff Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini
4. Far and Away Theme – John Williams
5. Titanic Theme – James Horner
6. Pearl Harbor Theme – Hans Zimmer
7. The First Knight Theme “Promise Me” – Jerry Goldsmith
8. A Walk To Remember – Only Hope – Mandy Moore
9. Lady Caliph Dinner – Ennio Moriconne with Yo Yo Ma
10. The Mask of Zorro – Diego’s Goodbye
11. Enchanted – So Close & That’s How You Know
12. Australia – Nimrod theme by Elgar
13. Sense & Sensibility – Weep you No More Sad Fountains
14. Pride & Prejudice – Dawn

Pop/Rock/Country Songs
Our pop culture today has no shortage of romantically-themed ballads. It’s either the wandering harmony or the building climax that seems to lull your ears into a romantic trance. Check out some of these popular favorites Brett and Brandon feel are worthy of their Pop/Rock/Country playlist.

1. More Than Words – Extreme
2. I Can’t Fight This Feelin’ Anymore – REO Speedwagon
3. When I’m With You by Sheriff
4. Best I Ever Had – Vertical Horizon
5. Our Song – Taylor Swift
6. Like We Never Loved At All – Tim McGraw & Faith Hill
7. True – Ryan Cabrera
8. Say Something – A Great Big World & Christina Aguilera
9. Fix You – Coldplay
10. I Won’t Give Up – Jason Mraz
11. I’ll Be There – Jackson 5 or Mariah Carrey
12. Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman? – Bryan Adams
13. Everything I Do I Do it For You – Bryan Adams
14. You’re Still the One – Shania Twain
15. I Will Always Love You – Whitney Houston
16. Josh Groban – When You Say You Love Me
17. the Way You Look Tonight – Tony Bennett
18. the Luckiest – Ben Folds


We hope we’ve helped you. May your Valentines Day go smoother then the last one! What’s your favorite romantic song for Valentines Day? Jump onto our Facebook page and let us know!

MCO Singer Insider: Chelsee Rowberry

By: Chelsee Rowberry

My name is Chelsee Rowberry, and I am a choir snob. I should have realized it earlier. I have loved singing for as long as I can remember, especially in choirs. I knew when I went to college that I wanted to study music and graduated with a degree in Choral Education from Brigham Young University. I think my most memorable college choral experience was singing under the direction of Mack Wilberg before he left to direct the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. The dedication of the director, the majesty of the music, and the skills of the singers were elevating. It left an impression on me that affects who I am, even years later.

After college, my main singing outlet was church choir. After such amazing choral experiences in college, church choirs were a musical let down—but a great opportunity to develop faith, (vain?) hope and charity. As my family grew and my spare time shrunk, I began to look for a way to reincorporate high quality choral singing in my life.

After a long wait and some searching, I started singing with MCO in 2008. For the first time since college, when I rehearsed with MCO I experienced the same emotions I felt when I sang with collegiate choirs.

MCO offers exactly what I loved about high-performance college choirs.

The MCO conductors are dedicated—perhaps even too much! My husband likes to joke that MCO is half choir, half cult. Certainly the members are committed, due in no small measure to the examples of Brett, Brandon, Cory and Cherilyn. Performing in an elite choir requires time and commitment, and the result is a unique connection with other like-minded and talented individuals—like a cult, but with a good kind of brainwashing. Like my college choirs, rehearsals are focused and practice outside rehearsals is necessary to master the music. Although rehearsals can be exhausting and require absolute attention, focusing my energy on the music gives my brain a great escape from daily life and its seemingly never-ending list of to-dos.


The music is majestic. We sing powerful, original arrangements in one of the best concert halls in the country. MCO’s resident composers continually produce soul-stirring masterpieces that the choir premiers in concert (a rarified experience). Even more, MCO regularly records this music and releases it on albums and iTunes. It’s incredibly fulfilling to be a part of a professional (and commercially available!) recording.

The singers are talented. I have met some in the choir who have advanced degrees in vocal performance. Many others sang in elite college choirs across the country. All come with a desire to work hard and magnify their talents and take part in a musical masterpiece. Being a part of this group is humbling—even for a choir snob. There may not be another choir in the world that is as versatile as MCO—it can produce a really big sound with a full orchestra, but can also sing reserved, quiet and focused with minimal or no accompaniment.

Because of the incredible musical experiences I’ve had in my life, I wanted my kids to have the opportunity as well. My three older kids who are in MCO (as well as the 5 year old who requests Riu Riu Chiu on repeat) love to sing the MCO songs. MCO helps develop their musical skills and requires them to do something hard. In a country where youth are commonly coddled, the directors demand excellence, good posture, and attentive singers—yet my kids still look forward to going each week. MCO pushes them beyond their normal capacities and they come away better for it. They also get a chance to meet and make friends with kids outside their neighborhood.

Because of all of the hard work and discipline during rehearsals, my kids come home from the concerts feeling accomplished and confident. They know they are a part of something great, and they take great pride in that. I love that we get to sing together on the same stage. One of my favorite things is to look up in the choir loft and see my kids singing their little hearts out. It is a very unique experience that I am truly grateful for.

As a busy mom of 5, I don’t have much time to spend on myself, but I make time for MCO. I look forward, every week, to spending three hours doing what I love.

Brett Stewart’s 5 Top Album Favorites

By: Brett Stewart

The Last 5 of Our Favorite Things

1. Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 6 – “Pathetique;” Leonard Bernstein & New York Philharmonic On iTunes
Anything by Tchaikovsky is Godly, and the sixth symphony is without a doubt the inspiration for infinite composers and compositions that followed. I listen to Tchaikovsky whenever I need inspiration as a composer. Just listen to the 3rd movement (Allegro Molto Vivace) and tell me John Williams didn’t know this piece well when he composed the Star Wars and Superman theme songs!

2. Brahms Symphony No.3; Chicago Symphony Orchestra & Daniel Barenboim On iTunes
I love movie scores, and Brahms was a movie score composer before movies even existed. Brahms symphonies are Sunday music listening for my family. The music is so picturesque that I close my eyes and I am transported to a multitude of beautiful places. The 3rd symphony movements 2 and 3 are particularly haunting.

3. Amadeus: The Complete Original Soundtrack Recording; Sir Neville Marriner & St. Martin-in-the-Fields On iTunes
Like I said, I love movie scores. This soundtrack is entirely the music of Mozart, and Mozart was the stand-alone composer of his time (in my mind) that understood how to really compose a melody – one that can make you weep. Many of the great Mozart compositions are on this soundtrack, so it’s a great collection to have!

4. The Spirituals of William L. Dawson; Anton Armstrong & The St. Olaf Choir On iTunes
African-American spirituals are one of my favorite genres of choral music, and The St. Olaf Choir is one of my favorite choral sounds. How can I not love this album?!

5. The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 6 – Dohnanyi On iTunes
This is actually one of the top 3 cherished albums I have ever purchased. Dohnanyi, that contemporary composer still lost in the Romantic era, just speaks my exact musical language (or I speak his!). I am enchanted by the 2nd piano concerto. Haunting, beautiful, uniquely contemporary music with a refusal to give up the best of what Romanticism had to offer.

Cory Mendenhall’s Top 5 Album Favorites

By: Cory Mendenhall

A Few More of Our Favorite Things

1. Gustav Holst: The Planets: London Symphony Orchestra & Chorus On iTunes

This orchestral suite is, in my opinion, Holst’s finest instrumental work. I love listening to this suite on long drives, or when working marathon days in my classroom. The distinctly memorable and noble tune found in the fourth movement, “Jupiter,” is arguably one of the world’s most profound melodies.

2. Anton Bruckner: Os Justi: found on track 12 of Eventide by voces8 On iTunes
I love the chain of suspensions found in this beautiful motet, featuring compelling patterns of dissonance and resolution. The text talks of an immovable, stalwart resolve, taken from one of my favorite passages found in Psalms 37:30-31: “The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks what is just. The law of God is in his heart, and his feet do not falter.” I also appreciate Bruckner’s appreciation of, and subscription to the Cecilian Movement…a movement in choral music during Bruckner’s time (1896) which supported reform and restoration of Renaissance polyphony and Gregorian Chant…certainly the foundation of all compelling choral music we enjoy today.

3. Bach: St. Matthew Passion: English Baroque Soloists, John Elliot Gardiner & monteverdi Choir On iTunes
listen to this work each year at Easter time. Emotionally dramatic, and deeply powerful.

4. O Magnum Mysterium, Morten Lauridsen: found on track 7 of The Dale Warland Singers: Lux Arumque album On iTunes
One of my favorite settings of this beautifully poignant text: “O great mystery and wonderful sacrament that even the animals saw the new-born Lord lying in a manger.” I have had some wonderful experiences as both a singer and conductor of this piece.

5. Durufle: Requiem: found on “Faure: Requiem & Durufle: Requiem,” Atlanta Symphony Chorus, Atlanta Symphony, Robert Shaw On iTunes
As a choral musician and organist, this work is one of my favorites which I feel captures the essence of effective registration specific to both voice and the organ. This is one of my most favorite meditative works!