MVNU students, alumni use music to spread message of hope, love

In a time of social distancing and online learning, Mount Vernon Nazarene University students and alumni came together virtually to share a message of hope and love to MVNU’s Class of 2020, and the world. The project connected over 150 singers to perform the choral blessing, “The Lord Bless and Keep You,’ by Peter Lutkin.

“We ended up with 163 singers, about 135 of whom are alumni,” said Dr. Bob Tocheff, professor of music, at MVNU. “While numbers are impressive, the other measure of success is the sheer pleasure of reconnecting with alumni from the early years through recent graduates. To see their joy and comments to me, and to one another, of how much this means to them has been incredibly uplifting.”

MVNU students, alumni use power of music to spread message of hope, loveThe song selection is an important message as the country responds to COVID-19, stay-at-home orders and social distancing. With lyrics that include, “The Lord bless and keep you. The Lord lift His countenance upon you, and give you peace,” the song will strike a chord with everyone who listens. For members of MVNU’s Collegians Chorale (or Singing Collegians in the early days), the piece has been a performance tradition at commencement for 50 years.

Publicizing the project to former Collegians members was a huge undertaking using social media and word of mouth. As monumental as the task was, the technical process to merge the video and audio into one dynamic performance was a true challenge.

“For this, I’ve been assisted at first by faculty member Jayme McMillan (instructor of visual media); then by music alumnus Aaron VanValkenerg,” said Tocheff. “Aaron’s incredible musicianship, coupled with strong technical skills, and equipment and software equal to the task, has been amazing to behold. He is quite remarkable.”

The project, sparked by the encouragement of Vice President for Student Life Tracy Waal, reflects MVNU’s vision to “reach the world with the love of Christ.” Tocheff hopes the message reaches the MVNU community all over the world and those who need to be uplifted in these extremely challenging days.

The video was part of the May 2 Senior Celebration to honor graduates on what was the University’s original plan for Commencement. The video marked nearly 30,000 views in its first 36 hours on MVNU’s Facebook page @thisismvnu,  It can also be viewed at